When Taylor Franklin went to Germany as an exchange student last year, she learned about building friendships and helping others.
Franklin, a junior at L.D. Bell High School took what she learned to heart when she helped to form the Interact Club, a program sponsored by the H-E-B Rotary Club to teach high school students about helping people in their communities and internationally. She is also president of the newly formed organization.
“I think this is what our school needs, a club where you can volunteer,” she said.
Franklin said her grandfather James Dunning, also a Rotary Club member, inspired her to travel and focus on volunteer work.
Franklin spent a year as a Rotary exchange student studying in Neuruppin, Germany, a town about 37 miles northwest of Berlin.
There, she made “lifelong” friends and learned to speak German.
“It was the best decision in my life. It made me more aware of the world around me,” she said. “It made me a double citizen.”
Clay Caruthers, president of the H-E-B Rotary and Hurst’s city manager, gave Franklin a banner and a bell to signal the beginning and end of each meeting.
“We are really, really proud that you are doing this,” he said.
Paul Lucas, a longtime member of the H-E-B Rotary Club, told the students that Rotary helps people around the world from all walks of life. Interact began in 1962.
“It’s one thing to meet and talk about what you’d like to do and another when you get involved,” he said.
Franklin said she put up posters at L.D. Bell and used social media to spread the word about the club. Students will start planning their community service projects at upcoming meetings, she said.
Senior Daniel Mihajlovic, 17, said the idea of doing community service and working on international projects sounded appealing. Mihajlovic, the club’s treasurer, plans to study civil engineering at Texas A&M University.
“It’s great to help out not only on a city level but on an international scale,” he said.
Bell German teacher Joe Mendenhall, who sponsors Interact, said it was inspiring to see the students’ hard work and planning.
“It has been a joy to watch them. There is so much that they want to do and get started on projects,” he said.
Mendenhall said he participated in a Rotary International exchange for teachers where he taught English at the Instituto Tecnologic de Chetumal in Mexico. He stayed with local Rotarians and their families.
“It was an amazing opportunity and I am still grateful to the local Rotarians and my friends the Mexican Rotarians for affording me this unique opportunity.
“It is why I am so supportive of the Interact Program here at Bell High School,” he said.