The three VOE teachers who act as advisors to the EarlyAct Clubs: Katie Nicholson (third grade), Jessica Mazakas (fourth grade) and Stephanie Plemons (fifth grade).
The fifth-grade EarlyAct Club has already elected its officers for this year: Sophia, recording secretary; Elisa, vice president; Maci, treasurer, Aubri, president; and Evelyn, corresponding secretary.
Teaching leadership and the importance of service
By Mary-Justine Lanyon
Eight years ago, the Crestline-Lake Gregory Rotary Club sponsored an EarlyAct Club in the fifth grade at Valley of Enchantment Elementary School. It was then suggested by Rotarian Bill Mellinger to expand the program to the third and fourth grades.
Through the club, students learn leadership. The clubs are student run – they elect officers, run the meetings, come up with ideas for their service projects. The Rotarians who are liaisons to the clubs teach the students about “service above self,” the Rotary motto.
Through the clubs, said fourth-grade teacher Jessica Mazakas, “they learn the world is bigger than them.”
The students do school, community and international service projects. They learn why they are doing the projects and who the projects help.
The three EarlyAct Clubs began meeting this school year on Oct. 3; they meet on the first and second Mondays of the month at lunchtime. Each club has a teacher who acts as the advisor. In addition to Mazakas with the fourth grade, Katie Nicholson is the fourth-grade advisor and Stephanie Plemons is the fifth-grade advisor.
The third graders first have to learn what a club is, what a meeting is, what the officers are. As they become familiar with the idea of what EarlyAct is, they will start brainstorming ideas for a project on their campus. “By the time they get to fifth grade, they have it,” Nicholson said.
The fourth graders started out the year by campaigning for offices, giving speeches to encourage their peers to vote for them. They are also coming up with ideas for international needs they may help with.
Being old hands at EarlyAct, the fifth-graders elected their officers immediately: president – Aubri; vice president – Elisa; corresponding secretary – Evelyn; recording secretary – Sophia; and treasurer – Maci. They are developing ideas for a project in the local community.
“We raise about $2,000 every year,” Plemons said, “which is shared among the three clubs. Our job as facilitators is to narrow the lens of their vision. They want to save the world with two grand! We steer their ideas.”
“The entire school works with us,” Mazakas noted, adding the club members are allowed to get their lunch early. “We thank the Crestline-Lake Gregory Rotary Club for investing in us. On days when we’re tired, you energize us.”