Rotaract Gives Back: New Rotary International Chapter at McDaniel

Students that are interested in giving back to a cause they are passionate about have a chance to do so through McDaniel’s new Rotaract chapter.

Rotaract is a college-age version of Rotary International, the world’s oldest community service organization. Rotaract gives students the opportunity to share important issues with each other and to inspire others to make a difference. Through Rotaract, students are able to introduce a cause they care about to the rest of the club and propose community service projects that they could partake in for the cause.

“The club is about fostering leadership,” says Leigh Brownell, the president of Rotaract at McDaniel. “That’s one of our main goals.”

Brownell started to build her connection to Rotary International in her junior year of high school, when she studied abroad in Spain for a year as a part of Rotary’s Youth Exchange program. She came back to high school to start her own Interact club, the branch of Rotary International for high schoolers. When she arrived at McDaniel, the LEAD program inspired her to start a Rotaract club.

One of the Rotaract club’s recent meetings opened up with a PowerPoint on gender inequality in pop culture by sophomore Emma Richard. Her topic, which she presented with passion and vigor, sparked animated conversation among the rest of the club. By the end of the meeting, everyone had freely voiced their opinions on issues such as violence against women and harmful media standards.

Brownell instituted this project, called Week to Lead, as a way to imitate Rotary meetings, which involve speakers and sponsors coming to meetings to talk about projects.

“We all have different sparks and callings,” says Richard. “It’s great to share them with other people.”

Week to Lead’s objective is to start discussions about issues that other club members may not have heard of before. Brownell believes that open discussion about important issues is an impactful way to spread knowledge and inspire change.

“Our goal with Week to Lead is to foster understanding and make sure everyone feels included in the club, able to say their opinion, and able to make a change if that’s what they want to do,” says Brownell.

Richard enjoyed spreading awareness about her issue during her presentation.

“It was awesome to talk about something I was passionate about in my Week to Lead,” says Richard, who wants to raise awareness for the often negative tropes that the media forces on females. “As an English major, I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of ‘damsels in distress…’ It was fascinating to share that interest with others.”

The Rotaract club is still working to put their community service ideas into action. They have participated in a few events in the past, including the Scrabble Madness fundraiser, which promoted the Literacy Council of Carroll County and the local Westminster Rotary chapter.

Brownell looks forward to organizing new volunteer events.

“I’m excited about the direction,” she says.

If you’re interested in giving back to the community and joining the new Rotaract chapter, you can contact Leigh Brownell at