Inspiring Our Youth: Having Fun, Building Friendships and Serving the Community

If it’s summertime in District 6900 that mean it’s time for the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, better known as RYLA!! RYLA is designed for young adults with proven leadership ability and a commitment to community service. The District 6900 RYLA camp was hosted by the Rotary Club of Americus and held June 2 – 6 on the campus of Georgia Southwestern State University and once again hit the high mark of 132 students sponsored by over 50 clubs.

Through RYLA, these young people from different backgrounds - home, educational, religious, and lifestyle - are brought together to work, learn, and discuss the issues that exist within their generation.They have the chance to learn and challenge themselves through team activities, large group activities, and candid, round-table discussions. RYLA programming includes individual personality profiles, conflict resolution styles, and ropes course activities designed to encourage teamwork, communication, and trust. New to the schedule this year was the addition of a service project which allowed the students to experience the Rotary motto of “Service Above Self” firsthand – over 300 paracord bracelets were hand-made by the students and will be donated to Operation Gratitude for care packages being sent out to members of our armed forces.

One of the recurring themes of RYLA is the student who accomplishes a feat he/she would have never dared to imagine before coming to camp. The most memorable of these culminating events are always the board break, allowing students to break through fears to reach goals, and the Trust Fall from a 5-foot platform into the waiting arms of teammates. And just as in recent years, most of the students who were very hesitant to spend the weekend with 130 strangers became the friends who did not want to part ways at the end. This speaks volumes to the benefit of RYLA and the positive changes it can create in young lives.

Even more telling of the long-lasting influence of RYLA is the fact that 90% of the counselors were once RYLA participants themselves – they believe in it enough to commit the time and energy to make RYLA the best experience possible. Over 70 Rotarians assisted with RYLA in some capacity, with most contributing on the club level with the nomination and selection of student participants while others provided transportation to and from RYLA, and the brave few who agreed to serve as chaperones in the dorms. Special guests this year were DG Alec Smythe, DGE Court Dowis, DGN Jim Squire, and DGND Kirk Driskell who joined us for several days volunteering as chaperones and spending time with the student teams.

RYLA aims to help students discover their potential and develop the skills needed to be leaders in their communities, careers, and everyday lives. And they achieve these goals while having fun, building friendships, and creating memories that will last a lifetime.We’re already looking forward to 2019 and we hope to see you there!

Posted by Jaclyn Donovan
July 7, 2018