Our Rotary club sponsors selected high school juniors to attend our Rotary District 7170 RYLA program. This one week long leadership camp is held the first week of summer vacation.
Information about The District 7170 RYLA Program:
Rotary District 7170 RYLA program summary
Rotary Youth Leadership Awards ( RYLA) is Rotary’s leadership training program for young people. It emphasizes leadership, citizenship and personal growth for the exceptional young men and women who are selected to participate. RYLA is one of the best and most effective programs run by Rotary clubs around the world.
The first RYLA session was held in 1959 in Queensland, Australia. Planned around Queensland’s centennial, it proved to be an extraordinarily successful event. Annual sessions took place in following years. And then the good news about the program spread throughout the worldwide Rotary Community.
RYLA came to District 7170 in the early 1980s, and a week-long conference was held at Golden Valley Sports Camp in Sidney, NY in 1982. Now it’s based on the SUNY Oneonta College campus in Oneonta.
District 7170‘s RYLA program is limited to high school students with leadership potential who are moving from their junior to senior years. Our program goes beyond other “junior experiences” like Boys State, Girls State with a host of specialty seminars and presentations for promising students. Each individual club within the District uses its own criteria for selecting the students – many enlist the help of their high school guidance counselors
The RYLA Conference in Oneonta this past year had 110 participants. In all, 42 of the 44 Rotary clubs in District 7170 provided RYLA scholarships to students. The cost of tuition and lodging is currently $350 per attendee and is paid by the individual clubs. Clubs like Endwell and Norwich send five students. Other clubs send fewer students depending on the club’s finances and by the number of high schools served by that particular Rotary club.
Most members of the RYLA staff are area high school teachers. Many of the guest speakers have direct ties with Rotary. Several were former Rotary exchange students. One of the most popular speakers is Duke Fisher of Bainbridge who presents a unit on Managing Conflict. He starts his presentation by explaining that he reserves the date of his RYLA presentation each year as his way of “paying back” for the Exchange Student opportunity that Rotary gave to him a number of years ago. Other presentations are made on such varied topics as school violence, motivation, decision making, and career exploration. In addition, the students produce a newspaper, have a public speaking contest, create band and chorus shows, and take such electives as photography, scrapbooking and computers.
Director Julie Lambiaso says a community volunteerism component was added to the RYLA program five years ago. This past year, students collected non-perishable food items and distributed them through local charitable organizations.
For many of the students, RYLA is their first experience on a college campus. The students live in dorms with roommates purposely not from their home schools, eat in the cafeteria, and use other SUNY Oneonta facilities such as the library, computer and technology rooms, fitness center and large meeting rooms.
The RYLA experience concludes with an awards banquet for parents and friends. This event is open to all district Rotarians, but reservations are limited, must be made in advance and cost $25.00 per person. “The entire Friday evening program is prepared by the students,” says Lambiaso. “It’s a great way for everyone to see some outstanding student work and for Rotarians to see the value coming from their club’s investment.”
What do students say about their experiences at the RYLA Conference?
“I thought it was amazing because it really changed me and it gave me a new view on life. I think my skills have really moved forward.”
“I feel my week at RYLA was excellent. It made me realize the confidence I have and the impact I can have on my community.”
“RYLA was absolutely incredible. Words don’t do it justice. The lectures and activities were all awesome.”
“RYLA was an unforgettable experience that I will be forever grateful for.”
“This was one of the best weeks of my life. I met new people and wasn’t afraid to be myself.”
“RYLA was beyond excellent. The kids, counselors and activities were all awesome. I’ve grown so much here and met so many wonderful people.”
“RYLA was amazing. Please never stop. This is an incredible experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
“It was informative, emotional, well-organized and a great way to bond with others. AWESOME!”
“This week at RYLA was amazing. It was more than excellent. I was able to grow both as a person and as a leader.”