Rotary Interact Club Takes On New York

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Everyone knows the Payson Rotary Club, and some of the good things they do around the community. Lesser known is the Interact Club. Interact is Rotary for high school kids. It is a service organization that works to improve the community its members live in.

Like Rotary, Interact has international goals and responsibilities to aid its larger community.

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Members of the Payson Rotary Interact Club raised funds to take a trip to New York during spring break. The high school students experienced everything from Broadway to the Statue of Liberty.

The club was organized in Payson three years ago, and right away began planning spring break trips to build the camaraderie among the members, and to give incentive to the youth who might need a boost when the duties of club membership become too cumbersome with all the other school responsibilities.

When this year's Interact board said they wanted to go to New York, I nearly fell out of my chair. As Rotary Club president and youth services director for the Payson Rotary Club, I work with the Interact Club to support them in their activities, and to be a liaison between the two clubs.

I warned them how much work would be involved to raise the funds, but I couldn't scare them off. They went for it.

The board of teenage students went on to plan fund-raisers, service projects and detail out minimum activity levels for the club members in order to qualify for the trip. This year's Interact board of directors are: president Tommy Ashby, vice president Alexis Hilliard, secretary Beryl Jones, treasurer Calvin LeGassie, activities director Shannon Horton, and historian Aubreigh Brunschwig.

The following is the daily log from the trip:

Day 1: (Friday, March 10) Twenty-four people depart Payson High School and head for Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Of the 24, there are 19 students, and five adult chaperones. The adults are Charlotte Hill, charter member of the Payson Interact Club; Jeremy Davies, Laurie Brunson, and Tara Keeney, all Payson High alumni, and Dan Hill.

We landed in Newark, New Jersey at 10:30 p.m. Getting to the hotel was our first adventure. We took a bus to Penn Station, a train to Grand Central Station and a subway to 50th Street. We walked the last two blocks to our hotel. Emerging from the subway station with Times Square before us was the first highlight of the trip. The students were awed by the sights of the tall buildings, bright lights, and the incredible masses of pedestrians still packing the streets at one in the morning.

Day 2: (Saturday, March 11) We had breakfast at McDonald's. We, of course, can eat McDonald's in Payson anytime we want, but this McDonald's is two stories tall, and right in the middle of Times Square.

We walked to Central Park, and spent the morning exploring the sights there. From Central Park, we entered the Metropolitan Museum of Art. From ancient to modern, the Met has the most amazing collection of art and artifacts any of us had ever seen.

This afternoon we took a train out to Ossining, New York, where we crashed, by invitation, an Interact party in progress at the community center there. The Rotary Clubs of New York had sponsored a party for all the Interact Clubs in the area. When they found out we were coming, they sent us information about it. We arrived back in Manhattan just in time to go to Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" on Broadway. It was an amazing show.

Day 3: (Sunday, March 12) We took the subway to the Empire State Building. I wonder when they built that 86-story building if they knew that someday people would line up for miles to pay money just to ride the elevators.

It was rainy, and very windy, but we went up anyway, and got thoroughly soaked while we "ooh"ed and "aah"ed over the view from there. Sunday afternoon was designated free time. We broke into smaller groups, each with separate itineraries. Those who tagged along with me saw two more Broadway shows.

If "Beauty and the Beast" was amazing, then "Lion King" was something beyond amazing. The costumes, the songs and the dances were incredible.

We also saw "Stomp." It was loud. (It was very good, too.) After "Stomp," (did I mention it was loud?), we toured Times Square. In honor of our foreign exchange student, Augusto Marino, who was with us, we ate at the Brazil Grill. Other groups toured Chinatown, Little Italy, shopped Times Square, and several other malls in the area, and ate at a variety of restaurants, trying everything including sushi.

Day 4: (Monday, March 13) We packed a lot into today. We started at 6 a.m. by going to the filming of the "Today Show." Breakfast at McDonald's again. Then, on to the Statue of Liberty. While you can't actually go up into the statue right now, from the inside of the pedestal looking straight up you can see the inside of Lady Liberty. The view from the observation deck looking back toward Manhattan is fantastic. You can see exactly where all those picture postcards of the New York skyline come from. It was definitely worth the Internet trip to circleline.com to get the Statue of Liberty Observatory tickets in advance because when we got there, they were all given out for the day.

Next, we went to the United Nations building for a tour. UN tours also have to be booked in advance at the UN's Web site. It was a surprisingly interesting tour for the youth. We sat in the General Assembly Room, as well as the Security Council Room. Both of these are places the kids recognized from newscasts coming out of the United Nations. We were surprised to learn that while standing on UN property we were officially no longer in the United States, but on international property belonging to the world, and subject to the laws of the world government, not the laws of the U.S.

After the UN tour, we went to Ground Zero, site of the former World Trade Center. They have made a lot of progress there, although no sign of the new Freedom Tower exists yet. But, all the former underlayers are back in place. The subway again runs through the property, although it's not exactly underground at the moment. You look down on top of the trains screeching along waiting for something new to cover their naked exposed parts.

The city has memorialized the property with plaques to what happened there, but the real tributes are a bouquet of flowers, a photograph of a firefighter, a burned-out candle on the ground, and all the other tokens showing that people still come there to mourn, to cry, to pray, and to remember lest we forget.

We finished off the day at Rockefeller Center. It was a last minute thing, almost an afterthought, to put ice skating on the itinerary.

It turned out, to my surprise, to be an amazing highlight for the kids. Most of them had never skated before, yet they totally enjoyed it.

Day 5: (Tuesday, March 14) Everyone is asleep on the airport floor. That means two things: 1. We've had so much fun they're completely worn out, and can't keep their eyes open, and 2. We made it to the airport early, something that couldn't happen if we came back to the airport the way we got to our hotel that first night. Thank you, Super Shuttle.

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