FUMA Interact Club celebrates 2,000 volunteer hours

By Madeline Otten, correspondent

Most teenagers spend their weekends hanging out with friends, playing sports, catching up on the latest show on Netflix or even earning money by working. However, that is not the case for Fork Union Military Academy (FUMA) cadets, specifically those who are a part of the Interact Club. FUMA’s Interact Club members spend their time on the weekends volunteering to help make an impact on society.

The FUMA Interact Club celebrated a year of success May 15 with its annual award ceremony. The ceremony kicked off with words from sponsors Command Sergeant Major (USA Ret.) Catherine Garcia and Rudy Garcia.

“When we started this club in October 2011, I never thought we would get to where we are today,” said Rudy Garcia.

Last August the previous club co-presidents went to Catherine Garcia and proposed a goal of completing 2,000 community service hours. While the goal did not seem impossible, the cadets knew it would take up most weekends. This year the club exceeded its goal by completing over 2,000 community service hours.

In addition, the FUMA Interact Club has made a $200,000 economic impact and has completed 8,000 service hours since the club began. They also raised $900 toward polio vaccines, which, with the help of a two-for-one match, quickly became $2,700.

“We are very proud to work with you. It is an honor to be seen with you all and take you out to projects,” said Catherine Garcia.

During the ceremony, the top 10 volunteers were recognized. Additional members were acknowledged for their hard work and service within the community. The volunteers earned a pin of a ribbon or an oak branch symbolizing the number of hours they completed.

The top 10 Interact volunteers for the year are:

  • Abdulrahman AlBunnia: 200.5 hours;
  • Ousmane Dieng: 114.5 hours;
  • James Merriss: 104.5 hours;
  • Daniel Bartsevich: 100 hours;
  • Beomsu Hong: 100 hours;
  • Donghyeok Kim: 100 hours;
  • Shereef Alkhateeb: 90 hours;
  • Ahmed Khalil: 78.5 hours;
  • Sungwoo Choi: 72 hours; and
  • Jaemin Park: 61.25 hours.

“I did the math, and if you multiply the amount of hours this club has put in by the minimum wage, you have contributed about $50,000 with your hands and heart,” said Col. David Coggins, USMC (Ret.) and president of FUMA. “Pride that you helped someone should be shown on your uniform and over your heart.”

Every year, members of the club participate in two big community service projects as well as smaller projects. Projects include Rise Against Hunger, helping out at Happy Face and Feeding Fluvanna, supporting Fluvanna Habitat for Humanity, fundraising for polio vaccines, helping out on Old Farm Day, Homework Helper, and Dining Facility Respite, a project where the cadets fill in for workers in the cafeteria, which was proposed by AlBunnia.

“This project helps our workers get home safely in case of snow or an unusual amount of rain,” Coggins said.

AlBunnia received the FUMA coin, which reads “body, mind and spirit” underneath the symbol of the academy.

Another recipient of the FUMA coin that night was Shereef Alkhateeb. He was also awarded the $2,000 scholarship from the Rotary Club of Fluvanna. Candidates must be seniors who have been in the club for at least two years and have completed 50 community service hours, 25 of which need to take place during their senior year. The decision was based on Interact involvement and leadership, hours volunteered, and GPA earned.

“I remember when I first joined Interact Club and since then, over time, it became a habit coming to the meetings every Wednesday,” said Alkhateeb. “What you’re doing out there, it is very important for the people here, but also in other places internationally. We help provide education and meals to others.”

The FUMA Interact Club was chartered in October 2011; just one month after the Fluco Interact Club. In total, there are 20,372 Interact Clubs across the world with 159 countries involved. The club helps connect students with leaders in their communities and around the world so that they can take action, discover new cultures, and make a difference in the community.

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