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Interact students see world beyond themselves

POULSBO — A group of seven students at North Kitsap High School will be living a lesson in geography and diversity during spring break. The Interact Club, which is a high school version of Rotary, will send the students on a mission trip to Zihuatanejo, Mexico, to help construct a kindergarten building for indigenous children. The kindergarten falls under the auspices of the Bainbridge Island-based Netza Schools Project, a non-profit organization that educates indigenous children in the remote village.

The high schoolers’ trip in April will serve a dual purpose: it is a humanitarian mission and a cultural exchange of ideas.

“We’ll teach them about American culture and sports,” said Interact co-president Stephanie Habner. They’ll also be taking books and school supplies to the school. Last year, Interact sponsored a school supply drive for Netza, netting more than 150 pounds of supplies.

Habner and other students were moved to action when they heard about the plight of the economically disadvantaged children Netza supports from the organization’s founder Lisa Martin. Speaking at a Poulsbo Rotary meeting, Martin said there are 60 native languages in Mexico, but only one spoken in public schools. Because many of the indigenous children speak only their native tongue and lack the money for mandatory uniforms and schools supplies, they are left out of the educational loop.

On a vacation in Mexico seven years ago, Martin visited Zihuatanejo, where she found a school that served the economically disadvantaged. Observing the extreme poverty, she was eager to learn more about the region and what she could do to help the school. Five years later, Netza was born.

“My foundation and others have helped to dramatically improve the school and the lives of the children,” Martin said.

Today, Netza employs 12 full-time teachers and three part-time instructors who teach nearly 500 children, 40 of whom live in an onsite dormitory. Interact members saw Netza as an opportunity to reach beyond their community to serve.

“All the students in Interact are really involved in the community,” Habner said. “Three of us are North Kitsap High School athletic trainers. We’re pretty involved and we wanted something international to help people outside Poulsbo.”

The junior Rotarians have already raised a little more than $3,000 for the trip and fundraising is ongoing.

A dinner and silent auction to benefit the trip is planned from 6-9 p.m. Jan. 8 at Garcia’s Family Mexican Restaurant on Front Street in downtown Pouslbo. Tickets are available at Liberty Bay Books in downtown Poulsbo and are $20.

Sponsorships are also being sought for the dinner.

For more information on the Netza Project, e-mail Martin at info@netzaproject.org or go to www.netzaproject.org. To make a donation to the Interact Club, contact Stephanie Habner at (360) 509-9408.

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