Rotaract was founded forty years ago, with the Rotaract Club of North Charlotte, Carolina being the first club to be chartered on March 13, 1968.
However, as early as 1935, Paul Harris encountered a youth organization based on Rotary principles in Australia. In the 1950’s many youth clubs were sponsored by Rotary clubs under various names. These included the “Paul Harris Circles” in Europe and the “Rotors” clubs created in some American Universities.
In 1965, these organizations experienced significant growth – in part due to the Interact program created by Rotary International in 1962. Many Interactors, having reached the age limit of that program, were starting new types of clubs called “Senior Interact”.
The new program’s name, Rotaract, was created by Rotary International as a combination of the words “Rotary” and “Action”. The aim of the program was stated to be “to develop leadership and responsible citizenship through service to the community.”
Following the founding of the Rotaract Club of North Charlotte, many existing Rotary based youth clubs changed their names to become an official Rotaract club.
In the 1990’s, Rotaractors combined their organizations on an international level with the creation of Multi-District Organizations in Europe, Australia and South America.
There are over 184,000 Rotaractors in more than 8,000 clubs in about 163 countries and geographical areas. Internationally, Rotaract is strong in Asia, Africa and South America as well as Europe, where Rotary membership may be exclusive or expensive.