What is Key Club?

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What is Key Club

    Key Club International is the oldest, largest, and most successful non-profit student-led organization for high school students. We teach and spread our core values through community service: caring, character-building, inclusiveness, and leadership which were adopted by our Key Club International Board in 2002. Members of Key Club, a part of the community-service based Kiwanis International Family, develop themselves into young leaders as they positively impact their schools and communities.

    Our organization was the inspired vision of California State Commissioner of Schools Albert C. Olney, and vocational education teacher Frank C. Vincent, who together worked to establish the first Key Club at Sacramento High School in California on May 7, 1925. Female students were first admitted into Key Club in 1976, eleven years before women were admitted to Kiwanis International, our sponsoring organization.

    Today, Key Club exists on almost 5,000 high school campuses, 35 different countries, primarily in the United States and Canada. It has also grown internationally to the Caribbean nations, Central and South America, and most recently to Asia and Australia. With over 12 million hours of community service a year, Key Club International is an organization comprised of multi-state districts, divisions, and individual Key Clubs on high school campuses around the world. Our organization is funded by nominal dues paid by every member, as well as generous contributions by Kiwanis International to fund service-leadership training programs. Key Club’s district & international officers are high school leaders elected by the members at district and international conventions. Our community-service organization offers a wide range of opportunities to its members, such as by supporting our International Service Partners March of Dimes (funds research to reduce premature births), UNICEF (works to overcome poverty, violence, discrimination, and disease that afflict children around the world), and Children’s Miracle Network (raises funds for more than 170 children’s hospitals).

    Key Club International is the oldest and largest service program for high school students. 
    It is a student-led organization that teaches leadership through service to others.

    Members of the Kiwanis International family, Key Club members build themselves as they build their schools and communities.

    Visit Key Club International for information on the structure of Key Club International. 

    Just the facts

    • Key Club has approximately 270,000 members
    • There are approximately 5,000 clubs
    • Key Club is represented in 38 nations

    A Brief History of the California-Nevada-Hawaii District of Key Club International

               In 1924, Sacramento High School in Sacramento, California was suffering from destructive clubs and fraternities. The fraternities were outlawed and moved underground, meanwhile continuing to exercise a negative influence on the student population. Teachers and community leaders of Sacramento High feared the detrimental influence of the destructive clubs and fraternities. These leaders sought a means of replacing the negative groups’ influence with wholesome youth activities. Mr. John Dale, the principal of Sacramento High, and Mr. Frank Vincent, a faculty member, thought their school needed an organization of students who discouraged delinquency by leading through good examples.

                Mr. Vincent asked the local Kiwanis Club for help to establish such a beneficial organization for educating youth. The two men decided to pattern a new group after their local Kiwanis Club. John Dale and Frank Vincent’s idea of a junior service club similar to Kiwanis was presented in 1924. A charter for the club was not approved until after eleven young men signed a petition on March 25, 1925 to the Kiwanis International Office in Chicago requesting to be chartered as a Junior Kiwanis Club. By the time the charter was granted and the club held its first meeting, the membership had grown to twenty-five members.

                Kiwanis hoped to provide vocational guidance to the students of the entire school through the Junior Kiwanis Club. The club became known as the Key Club because of the positive influence the key students who planned the club’s weekly luncheon meetings had on the school’s atmosphere. Kiwanians attended their Key Club Meetings as guest speakers and Key Club members attended Kiwanis meetings. As the experience of Key Club grew, a trend developed  expanding the original purpose of providing vocational guidance and worthwhile activities to students. Soon the entire Sacramento High student body was allowed to join a newly formed service organization, and a social program was offered to balance its service activities.

                Key Club went through a period of expansion by word-of-mouth in following years. The youth service organization convinced communities throughout the United States to start Key Clubs patterned after the first Key Club established at Sacramento High School. By 1939, about fifty Key Clubs were chartered, mostly in the southern U.S. In the same year, Florida formed a State Association of Key Clubs (The first Key Club District). In 1943, the Florida State Association of Key Clubs invited Key Clubbers from Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Tennessee to attend its convention. Afterwards, Key Clubs formed an international association and elected Malcolm Lewis of West Palm Beach, Florida as its first president. In 1946, the official Key Club International Constitution and Bylaws were approved, and the association became Key Club international (KCI).

                The first five clubs officially chartered by Key Club International were at Sacramento, Monterey, Oakland Technical, Hemet, and Stockton (now Edison) High Schools. Key Club grew beyond the place of its birth, and a few clubs already existed in Nevada. In 1947, it was decided that a district should be formed. The first step was taken as all Key Clubs and Kiwanis Clubs in California were invited to hold a conference in San Diego in October of 1947. The Key Club California-Nevada (Cali-Nev) District Bylaws and Constitution were adopted and new district officers were elected. John Cooper of Oakland Technical High School was the first District Governor of the Cali-Nev District. The first official Cali-Nev District Convention was held in Oakland in March 1948. It was attended by eighty members representing the 23 recognized district Key Clubs.

                The California-Nevada District converted to the California-Nevada-Hawaii (Cali-Nev-Ha, CNH) District when McKinley High School Key Club was established in Hawaii in 1952. The first edition of the Cali-Nev-Ha Key appeared on May 1, 1954. Presently Cali-Nev-Ha has over 45,000 Key Club Members from 736 clubs in eighteen regions, and 74 divisions!

    View the CNH District MAP   click link to open map

    Structure of Key Club International

     Anatomy of a Key Clubber

    Mission | Vision | Core Values

    Mission Statement

    Key Club is an international, student-led organization providing its members with opportunities to perform service, build character, and develop leadership.

    Vision Statement

    We are caring and competent servant leaders transforming communities world-wide.

    Core Values (CNH infographics)

    The core values of Key Club International are leadership, character building, caring and inclusiveness.

    For more information on these core values, see the Key Club International Core Values Workbook.


    Key Club Pledge

    I pledge on my honor to uphold the objects of Key Club International; to build my home, school, and community; to serve my nation and God; and combat all forces which tend to undermine these institutions.

    Key Club Motto

    The Key Club Motto is “Caring – Our way of Life.” Through Key Club’s work in the home, school, and community, Key Club members have learned that their organization is built around the concept of caring. With this concept as the foundation of the organization, Key Club will continue to be an effective and contributing organization in our schools and communities.

    Objects of Key Club International

    To develop initiative and leadership

    To provide experience in living and working together

    To serve the school and community

    To prepare for useful citizenship

    To cooperate with the school principal

    To accept and promote the following ideals:

    • To give primacy to the human and spiritual rather than to the material values of life.
    • To encourage the daily living of the Golden Rule in all human relationships.
    • To promote the adoption and application of higher standards in scholarship, sportsmanship, and social contacts.
    • To develop, by precept and example, a more intelligent, aggressive, and serviceable citizenship.
    • To provide a practical means to form  enduring friendships, to render unselfish service, and to build better communities.
    • To cooperate in creating and maintaining that sound public opinion and high idealism which will make possible the increase of righteousness, justice, patriotism, and goodwill.

    Key Club exists on more than 5,000 high school campuses in 38 nations:

    • Antigua and Barbuda 
      Cayman Islands 
      Costa Rica 
      New Caledonia 
      New Zealand 
      South Korea 
      St. Lucia 
      Trinidad and Tobago 
      Turks and Caicos Islands 
      United Arab Emirates
      United States of America

    What kind of service projects can a Key Club undertake?

    There is almost no limit to the scope and nature of Key Club service projects. The Key Club Web site, Key Club Magazine, and conventions all offer ideas for service opportunities. Better yet, begin by looking around your school for existing needs.

    Are there any minimums for involvement in a Key Club?

    Many clubs utilize a point system in which members earn points for attending meetings and projects. The best rule of thumb is the 50-hour rule: Every Key Club member should be willing to undertake 50 hours of service each year. (Throughout the organization, more than 12 million service hours are produced annually.)

    My high school already has more than one service club. Why should we add a Key Club?

    First, and most importantly, most high schools can only benefit by having more clubs provide positive service opportunities for students. Multiple service clubs can, when properly encouraged, produce a synergy of service to a school and community. Second, Key Club is one of the few organizations that actually is a student-led organization from top to bottom. That means the members elect the officers and pay the dues. What better way to teach real responsibility?

    What’s the cost for chartering a new Key Club?

    The chartering fee for new Key Clubs is US $600 and must be paid at the time of chartering.This fee includes the membership pins, cards, handbooks, certificates, a gong, gavel, and banner.

    How many members are needed to start a new Key Club?

    Fifteen is all it takes; however, no more than one-half should be scheduled to graduate in the same year.

    The club membership form asks for member names and mailing addresses. Will Key Club sell or rent these to third parties?

    Absolutely not! The membership database is for the exclusive use of Kiwanis International's Key Club Department and Key Club International. It will only be used to mail organization and benefit information to members under the control of Key Club and Kiwanis.

    Can an all-male or all-female club be chartered? In an all-male or all-female school, this is permissible.

    In a co-ed enrollment, US and Canadian schools are at risk of being in violation of existing federal and state/provincial laws prohibiting discrimination based upon gender.

    How do I build a new Key Club?

    With a Kiwanis club in your community, order a new-club-building kit from Key Club International.