By Staff Writers Mahek Bhora and Sakshi Umrotkar
On October 20, more than 2,000 District 5170 members of the Interact Club gathered at Independence High School in San Jose for their annual Fall Leadership Conference (FLC) — a day-long event consisting of workshops on leadership and the much-anticipated reveal of Interact’s new international and community projects.
On the morning of the conference, the main quad was bustling: students paraded outside of the auditorium, holding colorful posters and proudly donning their area shirts to represent the part of District 5170 that their school falls under. Approximately 26 members of the MSJ Interact Club were in attendance as part of Area 5. In regards to the turnout for the event, Interact Co-President Junior Allison Peng said, “I loved seeing so many new Interactors from MSJ learning about Interact on a district level, cheering our area on, and growing through service.”
“… students paraded outside of the auditorium, holding colorful posters and proudly donning their area shirts…”
The opening ceremony first introduced the leadership team in charge of organizing and running the FLC. The Daylight District Council — a team of 25 members that helped orchestrate this year’s FLC — reflected upon their previous ventures, with former International Coordinator Issabella Romo highlighting the 2018-19 International project, “Se Necesita Un Pueblo,” and its achievements. The crowd cheered in unison as they watched videos showcasing how their service with Interact helped to educate Venezuelan youth in the face of a national economic crisis.
As part of the opening ceremony, Project Coordinators Kayla Wong and Valerie Fu also revealed the international and community projects for the 2019-20 academic year. The international project “Build On” will challenge Interactors to make education more accessible for young Nicaraguans by building more schools and necessary facilities. Additionally, Fu presented the community project, “Resistance Through Resilience” — an effort to destigmatize drug and alcohol abuse — which will aim to fund treatment across the nation. Audience members teared up as she spoke about those who have suffered through unsuccessful rehabilitation, with Fu emphasizing the dangers of addiction. “Drug abuse is a healthcare issue, not a moral failure,” Fu said as she concluded her presentation on the community project.
“The international project ‘Build On’ will challenge Interactors to make education more accessible for young Nicaraguans by building more schools and necessary facilities.”
One of the event’s most memorable moments was when Psychiatrist Leena Khanzode delivered a moving speech regarding the importance of mental health awareness. Her organization, the Taarika Foundation, is dedicated to raising awareness about mental illnesses in children and adolescents, as well as removing the stigma surrounding mental health. She also talked about her journey to becoming a doctor: “It was during my residency that I realized how mental health, if not equally important, is more important than physical health,” Khanzode said.
Throughout the event, Interactors also enjoyed several engaging exercises and quizzes on different types of leadership. Many of the conference’s workshops focused on team building activities through different survival simulations: for example, one simulation had participants attempt to survive on an island after a plane crash. Such activities challenged attendees to collaborate in high-pressure situations, incorporating leadership lessons with entertaining exercises. “All the workshops taught us teamwork and encouraged us to speak to other areas,” MSJ Interact Co-Publicity Officer Sophomore Mingxin Wang said.
“Many of the conference’s workshops focused on team building activities through different survival simulations…”
As the event reached its end, Interact officers acknowledged all the dedicated 2,300 District 5170 members that attended the FLC. While acknowledging they have impacted the lives of millions around the world, officers urged members to continue fulfilling their duty to service. “Our work will never be done,” Romo said in her concluding speech to the audience.
Attendees parted ways after repeating their area chants one last time, and then cheering in unison to celebrate Interact’s past successes and future endeavors.
Photos By Staff Writers Mahek Bhora and Sakshi Umrotkar