Dorian Gray had never heard of the Rotaract Club when he began his journey at Florida Polytechnic University in 2016, coming from his native Bahamas. All he knew was that he wanted to focus not only on his classes, but also on his new environment and get involved in the community he now called home.
“I came from a Third World country with so many things to learn,” said Gray, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering. “When you’re in college you’re essentially alone, especially as an international student because family is so far away. Having Rotaract feels like family to me.”
Gray joined that “family” during his freshman year, when the service-oriented club was just getting started at the University. He saw it as an opportunity to be a part of an organization that would have a positive impact on campus and he wanted to grow with it, even if it meant getting out of his comfort zone.
“When we started meeting, I found it weird because everyone would stand up and talk about their day, and I was very introverted,” said Gray, the current president of the Florida Poly Rotaract Club. “I used to only talk to people I knew, so that broke a wall and has helped me communicate better with people from different backgrounds.”
Florida Poly’s Rotaract Club has about 40 active members and is one of almost 11,000 chapters around the world. Rotaract clubs bring together people ages 18 to 30 to organize service activities, develop leadership skills, and socialize.
The members at Florida Poly meet twice per month to coordinate cultural activities on campus, guest speaker visits, and volunteer opportunities in nearby communities within Polk as well as in other countries. Last year, the club organized a trip to promote education by delivering school supplies to children in Haiti.
The club also got down to work when some of their peers at Florida Poly were affected by a fire last March at a Lakeland apartment complex. They raised more than $2,000 to help the students buy food, clothing, and other necessity items.
“It is so rewarding to know that we can have an impact in the lives of others if we work together and rise each other up,” said Maria Paula Gomez, a graduate student studying data analytics and a founding member of the club.
“By helping others we want to serve as brand ambassadors for Florida Poly, for our community, and for the country,” added Gomez.
Assistant Director of Communications