Rotaract and Interact
Rotaract originally began as a Rotary International youth program in 1968 and has grown into a major Rotary sponsored organization of over 9,030 clubs spread around the world and 207,690 members. It is a service, leadership and community service organization for young men and women between the ages 18–30. Rotaract focuses on the development of young adults as leaders in their communities and workplaces. Clubs around the world also take part in international service projects, in a global effort to bring peace and international understanding to the world.
"Rotaract" stands for "Rotary in Action", although the name originally comes from a combination of "Rotary" and "Interact" (International + Action), the high school level program created by Rotary International in 1962.
In the late 1960s, noting the success of the recently formed Interact program, the RI Board realized the need for a program of service, activity, and fellowship for young adults no longer of Interact age (12-18). The name Rotaract (Rotary in Action) was selected to show the program's close affiliation with both Rotary and Interact clubs.
RI President Luther Hodges inaugurated Rotaract in 1968, with the Rotaract Club of University of North Carolina-Charlotte, USA, being the first club. The club received its charter on 13 March and had 21 members.
Within a day of the certification of the Rotaract Club of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, the Rotaract Club of the University of La Salle was chartered in Tacubaya, Mexico. The Rotaract clubs of Florence, Italy; Gaston College and Sylva, both in North Carolina; and Secunderabad, India, were all certified in the following weeks. Since the 1950s, many Rotary clubs had been starting unofficial clubs for young adults, so this fueled Rotaract’s rapid growth in its first few years. Rotaract grew from 21 clubs in 1967-68 to 289 clubs a year later.
There are now 7,000 Rotaract clubs in 163 countries and geographic areas.
Rotaract clubs were originally open to young men and women ages 17-24. Since 1991, young adults ages 18-30 have been welcomed.
Interact is Rotary International’s service club for young people ages 12 to 18 (Middle and High Schools). Interact clubs are sponsored by individual Rotary clubs, which provide support and guidance, but they are self-governing and self-supporting.
Since its earliest days, Rotary has been committed to helping children in need. But in 1960, the organization took a new approach to youth service. Recognizing the untapped potential of young men and women, RI President Harold T. Thomas urged Rotary clubs around the world to find ways to encourage service among youth, foster their active interest in the community, and offer opportunities for them to develop as leaders.
Two years later, 23 students at Melbourne High School in Melbourne, Florida, USA, came together to form the first Interact club. Now, Rotarians were not just helping youth but empowering them to serve locally and internationally with their Rotary club sponsors.
Ever since, thousands of communities around the world have benefited from the service of Interact clubs. Interactors have discovered a program that offers fun, meaningful service activities while providing a chance to develop leadership skills and meet new friends. In turn, sponsor Rotary clubs have gained increased support for projects and fresh ideas for service while helping to develop future Rotarians.
The term, Interact, is derived from "inter" for international, and "act" for action. Every Interact club must be sponsored and supervised by a Rotary club and must plan annual projects of service to its school, community and in the world.