A heart for others: Leah Gustafson’s job as president of the interact club

Ryan Bell

Leah Gustafson and another Interact student.
Leah Gustafson and another Interact student.

Many students at Redwood have an activity that satisfies them; whether it be playing a sport, acting in plays and other productions or maybe even an academic subject like chemistry or history. But for the 38 students in the Interact Club, helping others through community service is what makes them happiest.

Senior Leah Gustafson is the president of the Interact Club, a job which she never thought she would have. Gustafson joined the club during her freshman year and has continued with it ever since. She became an active leader in the club when her friends encouraged her to apply for secretary, a role which helped her prepare for eventually becoming the president.

“Before Interact I never would have considered myself a leader or able to lead a club. It’s really changed my perspective on that and it’s made me much more confident as a person,” Gustafson said. “The transformation from being that shy freshman into secretary and finding that I can actually be a leader, that made me push myself even more out of my comfort zone.”

During the four years she’s been a member of Interact, her preconceived opinions on the groups she volunteers to help are often drastically changed when she actually meets them, Gustafson said.

“[Interact has] completely changed my perspective on the world around me. Every year we volunteer at Saint Vincent de Paul, which is a soup kitchen in San Rafael. My first time going there was sophomore year and I was really scared. I thought homeless people were dirty and mean, just those horrible stereotypes,” Gustafson said. “And I was completely wrong; they’re the most grateful people I’ve ever met. It just completely changed my perspective on their lives, and how they look at life, too.”

Leah Gustafson and other club leaders at the Interact table during club day.
Leah Gustafson and other Interact leaders at the Interact table during club day.

As president of the Interact Club, Gustafson leads all the club meetings and contacts the board members to make sure they’re doing their jobs. But her proudest accomplishment isn’t related to her management skills, it’s what she’s achieved through recruitment.

“When I became president, we were really low on recruitment… we had eight members, and I boosted that up to 38 members, and that’s because I came up with the idea to go into social issues classes to tell them about our club. Social issues students need 10 hours of community service, so I pitched that to them,” Gustafson said.

Since she’s now a senior and will be leaving the Interact Club after her graduation, Gustafson has outlined a plan to continue her love for community service as an adult through an organization called Rotary.

“Rotary created Interact for high school, and there’s a college level which is Rotaract. I plan to continue with Rotaract in college and then Rotary in my adult life, so just continue with community service throughout my whole life. A leadership position [in Rotary] would be cool just so I can give my ideas in a better way, but just as long as I’m involved with the organization I’m happy.”

The Interact Club holds meetings every Wednesday at lunch in Room 258.