Americus Rotary Club hosts another successful leadership camp

Published 3:03 pm Wednesday, July 13, 2016


AMERICUS — If it’s summertime in District 6900, that mean it’s time for the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (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 11-14 on the campus of Georgia Southwestern State University. After another overflow of requests for reservations, camp attendance again topped out at 114 students sponsored by 49 clubs.
Through RYLA, these young people from different backgrounds —  home, educational, religious, and lifestyle — are brought together to work in teams, learn about themselves, and discuss the issues that exist within their generation. They are assigned to small teams — Blue, Green, Red, Purple, Yellow, and Orange — and then given the opportunity to challenge themselves through team activities, large group activities, and candid, open discussions.
RYLA programming guides the students through individual personality profiles, conflict resolution styles, and ropes course activities designed to encourage teamwork, communication, and trust. Each activity builds into the next, with the RYLA experience culminating in several capstone activities which teach students to break through fears in order to reach their goals and to place unwavering trust in teammates. The students are also invited to compete in the annual RYLA Talent Show for a chance to win cash prizes. And along the way the students learn just how much they are capable of as individuals, as well as the variety of talents and abilities they can contribute to a team.
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. Examples of these daring feats include breaking through a board with just a bare hand, and falling backwards off a 5-foot platform to be caught by the team. And just as in recent years, most of the students who were very hesitant to spend four days with 100 strangers became the friends who did not want to part ways at the end. This speaks volumes to the many benefits of RYLA and the positive changes it can affect in young lives.
Even more telling of the long-lasting influence of RYLA is the fact that the majority of the staff counselors were once RYLA participants themselves; they believe in it enough to commit the time and energy to return each year and make RYLA the best experience possible for the students.
Over 80 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 agreed to serve as chaperones in the dorms.
Special guests this year were the Rotary District Governor Bob Hagan, District Governor-elect Raymond Ray, District Governor Nominee Alec Smythe, and District Governor Nominee Designate Court Dowis who joined came for three days volunteering as chaperones and following the teams through the full RYLA experience.
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.
The RYLA staff, co-chaired by Americus Rotarians Russ Childers and Susan Ruckman, is already planning for 2017 with hopes to change even more young lives.
— Submitted by Jaclyn Donovan, District 6900 RYLA chair