A noteworthy service: U Rotary club breaks new ground

By and

U student Mondi Basmenji spent a year learning about and interacting with members of Utah’s Holladay Rotary club before traveling to Kenya for a service-learning trip in 2001.

It was an association encouraged by the sponsor of her trip-an association that gave students traveling to Kenya scholarships and support.

It also led to the formation of the U’s Rotaract club-the only Rotaract club in Utah, according to Basmenji.

According to rotaract.org, the mission of Rotaract is to “provide an opportunity for young adults to enhance the knowledge and skills that will assist them in personal development, to address the physical and social needs of their communities and to promote better relations between all people worldwide through a framework of friendship and service.”

“Traveling to Kenya instilled a love of Rotary in me,” said Basmenji, vice president of the Rotaract club.

It was a love she says prompted the U’s Rotaract President, Cindy Schmidt, and herself to meet and then plan and organize the Rotaract club-a club for students and professionals aged 18 to 30.

On Oct. 16, 27 U students became official charter members of the U’s Rotaract club at a dinner sponsored by the Holladay Rotary club.

“That’s a great legacy and something to be really proud of,” said Sue Vanderhoof, one of the club’s advisers. “Forty to 50 years from now, they will be listed as charter members, the ones that started it.”

“Our initial meeting was last year in April,” Basmenji said.

“We took the summer to plan and organize and strategize about how to get people to join. We held an information meeting at the end of last year and that’s where we got most of our membership,” she added.

Most of that membership consists of sons and daughters of Rotarians or students who had traveled and served in Kenya, according to Basmenji.

“Many of the students spent a whole year learning something about Rotary,” said Vanderhoof, one of two Holladay Rotarians who advises the U’s Rotaract club.

“These young people understand the need for service in the community that is available to them through Rotaract,” she said.

At each meeting, the club will focus on one of four main areas: community service, leadership development, international service and professional development.

“We meet twice a month,” Basmenji said. “At one meeting we will have a speaker that hits on one of the mission goals that [Rotaract] has-things like professionalism, taking the initiative and leading with integrity.”

During the other meeting, members will either perform service or listen to a speaker from the organization for which they will perform service.

“They’re there to tell [members] what to expect and what the mission of the organization is,” Basmenji said.

Last month, club members volunteered for the Special Olympics and listened to business professionals-who were also members of a Utah Rotary club-speak about service and “taking the initiative.”

This month, members will learn about a Rotaract club in Brazil.

In order to make the project-or cultural exchange, as Basmenji calls it-the club will interact directly with the Brazilian club.

“We’re going to send down pictures and souvenirs in a package-things to give them a sense of the life we have here,” she said.

According to Vanderhoof, because of these activities, members of the Rotaract club have an advantage over other students once they graduate.

“A Rotaract student is impressive in the business community because they have that network of professionals,” Vanderhoof said.

“They have a leg up on the other competition that isn’t just service-oriented. It’s important to be involved [in the club] just to have access to all of these professionals to help and guide them into their careers.

However, Vanderhoof also said that members of the Rotaract club-particularly the presidency-have a challenge consistently providing activities and opportunities to draw in new membership.

“Now that they’re up and running, it’s going to take some work to keep it going,” she said. “But I think this is going to be a very strong organization up at the U and a well-recognized service club.”

To become a member, all students need to do is “fill out an application, pay the $25 dues each semester, attend the meetings, do the community service-and love it,” according to Basmenji.

“I am a true believer that service is so important,” she said. “We have our entire lives here and we owe it to each other to serve one another.”

To learn more about the club, call Cindy Schmidt at 580 3580. Meetings are on the first and third Tuesday of each month in the Union Building, starting at 7 p.m.

[email protected]

Rotaract by the numbers:

There are 27 charter members of the U’s Rotaract club.

More than 7,500 Rotaract clubs.

In more than 155 countries.

Worldwide membership is estimated at 173,000.

Rotaract officers:

*Cindy Schmidt, president

Mondi Basmenji, vice president

Marianne Ickes, secretary

Grant Calder, treasurer

Advisers: Dennis Ickes, Sue Vanderhoof