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VITAL CLUB: Rotaract allows students to see community members ‘doing what they’re studying’
GSU Rotaract
Georgia State University Newton Campus student Isabel Prieto, left, and GSU professor Andrea Hendricks are hoping to continue to see momentum build for the school’s Rotaract Club. - photo by Gabriel Stovall

COVINGTON, Ga. — While middle school students from Newton County Schools excitedly gathered at Georgia State University’s Newton Campus Friday for the school’s STEM Day, the enthusiastic chatter enhanced the campus’ atmosphere. 

But it wasn’t just the students from NCSS who were enthused. Littered throughout the close-to-90 middle school students that converged on the GSU campus Friday were an assortment of Georgia State students all too eager to help. 

Isabel Prieto was among them. 

Prieto, a freshman at Georgia State and a 2022 graduate of Eastside High School, is a business administration major who also has interests in studying journalism and communications. She’s also the student president of the campus’ Rotaract Club. 

Think of Rotaract Clubs as the student division of Rotary International which is one of the largest service organizations in the world. Recently, the Rotary Club of Covington expressed interest in bringing more awareness of Rotary to students in hopes of increasing membership among younger people. 

Covington Rotarian Andrea Hendricks came on board as the club advisor to help Georgia State’s Newton Campus create a Rotaract Club. It helps that Hendricks is the Senior Director of Online Initiatives and an associate professor of mathematics at the school. It gave her a built-in desire to see the Rotaract Club succeed in helping college students, soon to become emerging professionals, begin to understand the benefits of being a Rotarian.

“I think having clubs like this on college campuses is vital,” Hendricks said. “It makes the learning come to life for these students when they see people in the community actually doing the things that they’re studying. It gives them the ability to partner with them and provides them with shadowing opportunities. When that happens, as a student, you’re no longer feeling isolated to just going to school without an aim.” 

That’s where Prieto’s excitement comes in. Since taking on the role of student president of the Rotaract Club, Prieto has been busy about getting the word out to Georgia State students, but also to business leaders and professionals in the Metro Atlanta area. 

She wants to get as many people as possible on campus to help students catch a glimpse of what life after graduation can look like for them, both as professionals and as community servants. 

“I gave my last business card out when I met the 11-Alive producer the other night,” Prieto said. I’ve had the chance to meet the Bridgestone CEO up at the Capital. I went to SGA meetings on our Atlanta campus and met senators there, people in the alliance club, people in our LGBTQ community. It gave me the ability to just hear about all the different ideas we have to help bring awareness to our campus. We want to have as many people as we can come here to talk about their experiences and give us more exposure to what they do.” 

Hendricks flashed a smile as she listened to Prieto energetically explain how her short time as Rotaract president has energized her educational experience. 

 “She’s getting the word out about what we’re doing everywhere she goes,” Hendricks said. 

And it seems to be paying off. Several Georgia State students who were helping in last Friday’s STEM Day on campus were also members of the campus Rotaract Club. Nick Bland is one of those students. 

Bland is a third-year health sciences major who says he wants to be a dental hygienist. He said his involvement in the Rotaract Club drastically changed his student experience.  

“My experience has been good,” said Bland who says he’s also done service work for the local Kiwanis Club. “Before getting involved, I just went to school, went home, went to work. But now, I have more responsibilities and I have a job to do to help other students get involved. It feels good.”  

Bland says he sees both an educational and professional benefit to being involved. 

“It’s good for the experience of it,” he said. “You get to know new things and know new people. But it’s also something that’s good on your resume as well.” 

That, Hendricks says, is the exact reason why she’s hoping the local Rotaract Club’s fast start is just the beginning of lasting momentum that continues to give local college students more exposure to the club’s benefits. 

“So far, we’ve had a good number of students who have stepped up and said they were willing to participate and be involved in any way,” Hendricks said. “So it really is nice to have this community of partners and students taking an interest in what we’re doing.”