I spent Monday morning at the RYLA 2014 Conference held at the National 4-H Youth Center in Chevy Chase. (Note: if you have to drive to Chevy Chase on a Monday morning do it when the Federal Government is on holiday. 35 minutes from Columbia to Chevy Chase….are you kidding?) What is RYLA? It is the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, a program designed to train students in 11th or 12th grades in character, leadership, personal development, and good citizenship. Our District’s RYLA program, under the direction of RYLA Chair Judy Cappuccilli, and her capable committee members Mary Dudley, Ed Kumian, Rochelle Brown, and Navin Manchery-Villiappan, put on quite a show for close to 100 high school students there to learn about leadership.
I was joined on Monday morning by a large contingent of the district leadership team, including DG Peter Kyle, DGE Bill Fine, Yours Truly, and IPDG Bob Parkinson, and we were all amazed and delighted with the level of energy and enthusiasm that these young do-gooders applied to their task of working in teams to develop and present new and innovative community service projects. The ideas were terrific. Everything from creative ideas for providing services for the unemployed, the physically disabled, the hungry, the sexually and emotionally abused, and more. The group was broken up into something like 16 different groups all competing in fun learning activities. According to the program points were awarded for Funny, Hat, Hair, Wig, and Masquerade; Presentation of group mascot, Skit, and Cheer/Song, and their team presentation at the Sharefair. The RYLA participants learned about teamwork and leadership, but they were also having a blast. The winning Sharefair group project had to do with teaching homeless youth to express themselves using poetry. That’s right…POETRY! I wish you could have seen their skit.
Along the way RYLA participants learn a lot about Rotary and it’s no secret that getting these young men and women into the program is a good way to get them interested in Interact and Rotaract, or in the case of Navin M-V, helping to start a brand new Rotary Club of Federal City in Washington, DC. I couldn’t make it to the conference until Monday, and one of the main themes I was hearing from the participants was, “I’m tired.” I’m sure they were since they had been going virtually nonstop since Saturday morning. But if you were there with them you couldn’t help getting an infusion of energy and maybe a small reminder that its great to be young.
Why not find out more about RYLA for next year’s conference? I’m sure you know some 11th and 12th graders that would benefit from the experience.