Cherryville High School Interact students bring joy, friendship to elementary, middle school students
by MICHAEL E. POWELL
Just when it seemed the youth of America were becoming more disillusioned with involvement in anything these days, along comes the CHS Interact Club, proving everybody wrong!
This group of 54 or so CHS young men and women, led by Student Success Coordinator, Shully Cloninger, are fast about showing up many adults who have been at the tiller of the “ship of helping others” longer than some of these kids have been alive.
And Mrs. Cloninger takes no prisoners, stating matter-of-factly when she said recently at CHS, “Come by and let me show you want these kids are doing! My Interact Club is doing a lot of great things!”
The “great things” to which she refers is that each month the Interact Club students host a surprise birthday party for a specially selected student at Cherryville Elementary School, going out and purchasing the party supplies and cupcakes and take them to the school so they can have a fun birthday party.
Also, Mrs. Cloninger noted CHS junior Dalton Pence came up with an idea to help combat bullying at the middle school level.
Said Cloninger, “(Bullying) is so prevalent today, so we started what we call a ‘Lunch Buddy’ program. The idea came from Dalton.”
For his part, Pence said he wanted to help middle school students by his fellow Interact Club students being a lunch buddy to middle school students who are being bullied, are having a bad day, or even students who just need a friend.
Pence and Mrs. Cloninger noted the program kicked off just this past week, with the help of John Chavis Middle School Athletic Director Scott Pervine and JCMS Principal Ryan Smith. Interact Club members Pierston Elliott and Gracie Jackson both ate lunch with three ‘lunch buddy’ kids at JCMS last week, they said, adding that they really enjoyed getting to interact with the middle school kids.
Mrs. Cloninger noted her Interact Club students will be going each week to pair up with a “buddy” at JCMS.
Said Shully, “I am hoping these two new ideas will become a staple in both schools and among the Interact Club here at CHS, no matter who is in charge of it.”
Cloninger said when she started with the Club last semester they were down in their membership, but since then she said the Club has grown exponentially.
“We have been blessed to see great growth in the Cub, so we went forward with that and came up with new programs,” she said, adding the Club today has a good mix of male and female members, specifically more juniors as well as freshmen and sophomores in the Club today than before.
As for the Birthday Club and “Lunch Buddy” experiences of the four students – seniors Pierston Elliott and Gracie Jackson, and juniors Ty Heavner and Dalton Pence – Ms. Jackson said, “Doing this makes me feel good in that I can give back to the community. This helps me in my choice of a possible career path in Elementary Education as I get to talk with the students and understand them a little better at that age.”
Pierston said, “I was in the first Birthday Club in February of this year. To see the kids’ reaction at getting the cupcakes and all that just touched my heart. To know they were happy made me happy. To see a need at this level was really eye-opening for me.”
Ty Heavner said, “I feel like it does a lot of good for them and at the same time it touches others around them.”
Dalton Pence said, “This is my first year in Interact as well. I joined because I feel it’s good to give back to my community and to be focused on not just yourself.”
Pence continued, “I felt like, while we were giving back to and being with the elementary and middle school students that nothing could ruin that feeling. Everything you do makes a difference in somebody’s life.”
In keeping with the holiday season, Mrs. Cloninger said she also challenged the Interact Club to kick off the Christmas giving season with a “Random Acts of Kindness” campaign.
Said Cloninger, “Our students have paired up with groups to go out into the community this week to do acts of kindness. They are taking cookies to police, fire and EMS workers. They are surprising people in drive-through lines by buying their food. Some groups are returning shopping carts at Walmart and Food Lion, just as a start.”