Interact Started Me on the Path to Becoming a Global Citizen: The Beth Roessner Story

Beth Roessner, currently the 2018-19 president of the Berkeley Rotary Club, reflected on the impact Interact had on her life by saying, “Interact started me on my path to becoming a global citizen.”  Beth was the co-president of her Interact Club at Branford High School in Branford, Connecticut. in 1998-99. The club had 100+ members, a big club similar to the Rotary club she now leads. Like many Interact clubs, only half the members in her club were truly active and engaged. But she feels her Interact club had a major impact on her community there, and she intends to make a similar impact now that she’s heading a Rotary club.

She recalls joining Interact, because it was “the coolest club” in the high school and known as a very active club for service and fun. She had never heard of Rotary prior to joining, but had the advantage of learning about Rotary from the Interact Club’s major adviser, a Rotarian businessman named Tricia,who was a big influence upon her.  She was active in the Interact club for four years of high school. She learned along the way to being president about money management, how to do good for one’s community, advertising, recruiting new students, planning and staging events – what she would call “public relations”, “marketing”, “management” and “leadership” in her current professional life in the insurance industry.  The achievements of which she’s most proud while an Interact leader were their Thanksgiving food drive for the poor and disadvantaged that filled an 18-wheeler truck, and her “polar bear swim” where Interacters got sponsorships from the community and took a swim at a beach in Long Island Sound in the icy cold Atlantic to raise money for Branford’s emergency fuel fund assisting needy families who couldn’t pay their energy bills or heating where they were living.

While in Interact, she got to attend several Rotary meetings and meet more Rotarians.  Branford Rotary was a club of 60-75 members, knowing the community as the “go-to” club if you wanted action on some community need.  They also sponsored her for the summer RYLA week of leadership training. (Berkeley club members know of RYLA as “Camp Royal” in our District.)

After high school, Beth went to University of Massachusetts at Amherst for college.  They had no Rotaract club there, and indeed she had never heard about Rotaract until she came to the Berkeley club.  But she aspired while in college to become a Rotarian someday. She worked after graduating in Amherst and was the General Manager of a restaurant delivery service. . Beth notes “Our business back then was groundbreaking and the model is what modern delivery services are based upon. I’m proud of my 11 years of management there.”  Her bosses were in Rotary. But she thought back then she had to be a business owner to join.

She moved to California and Berkeley to launch a new career in insurance., she was delighted to know you could be a Rotarian and not bea business owner.  It was enough to be a successful manager or prospective community leader. She joined Berkeley Rotary on Jan. 16, 2013, and now serves as president for 2018-19.  Berkeley is a middle sized club with some 121 members, but a club highly active both internationally and locally. Beth is among the youngest presidents in its 100+ year history.  The club is a bit notorious in making its president responsible for a huge service/fund-raising project during their first month on the job – providing the parking and arranging transit for the city’s annual Kite Festival drawing some 30,000 people from across Northern California.  The club has to deliver some 100 volunteers and lots of planing and organization to pull it off. The president gets lot of help from the many members; Beth calls this key to making her year successful.,

Her big goals for the year are staging a a Rotary Day at Cal’s Memorial Stadium in Sept. during a football game (where Cal will draw attention from the crowd attending of 50,000+, and raising money for a new Rotary-assisted supported housing project. But as president, she still has responsibility for projects launched in earlier years, such as the all volunteer Rotacare free clinic for the uninsured needing medical help, the club’s RI grants doing mediation training in peace and economic development in Africa and educational programs in Mexico, a District program of “Courageous Conversations” that seeks to train community leaders in dialogue across poiitca and other divisions in communities,lots of ongoing local programs, a huge college scholarship and mentoring program, and support of the club’s large Rotaract program, smaller Interact program, and Youth Exchange student..

She’s doing all this while continuing to work full-time in her insurance business, and keeping her partner Eric happy in their home life. Beth reports “He has been so proud and supportive of my presidency and my service to the club. He frequently joins me at projects and has been a huge help with his strength and stamina for projects that require it. He brags about me for sure”

She’s found her Rotary life rewarding and exciting, just as she had expected it would be while she was in high school.  She finds the other members inspiring. She loves planning events, and planning the weekly meetings and keeping the meeting to its one-hour time.  She enjoys meeting the weekly speakers, usually experts or leaders in their fields. She enjoys going to District events and trainings, and meeting people and creating friendships both within her club’s local area of eight clubs and in the larger District of 73 clubs. She loved the international RI conference in Toronto in June.  But she likes most of all woking with the members of her club. She’s amazed the they each “do so many things” inside and outside Rotary, and all have fun doing them.

Why should a Rotary youth alumna or a young professional consider joining Rotary? Beth’s answer is emphatic: “I recommend any young person considering Rotary to just do it. In addition to the joy of helping others and solving problems home and abroad, the benefits include fun and friendships, engaging speakers, and a global network of like minded individuals, as well as some of the best leadership training you can find. Don’t let the cost or the historic ideals be a turn off, Rotary is always evolving and I believe there is a club for everyone out there.”

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