R otary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) is Rotary's leadership training program for young people. RYLA participants can be ages 14-30, but most clubs and districts choose to focus on a narrower age range, such as 14-18 or 19-30. RYLA emphasizes leadership, citizenship, and personal growth, and aims to

  • Demonstrate Rotary's respect and concern for youth
  • Provide an effective training experience for selected youth and potential leaders
  • Encourage leadership of youth by youth
  • Recognize publicly young people who are rendering service to their communities

 Gillian Manson was pelased to introduce four young women who were Harbourside's "UN Contingent" to RYLA this year: Rachel Corwin, Chahat Mehra and Alice Shimizu who are all from Vic High and Angela Yu from Mount Doug.

Rachel, Chahat, Alice and Angela took turns telling us about their trip, what they did and what they learned.

They arrived a little late so missed some of the first activities but they were there for three days so didn't miss too much.  Each day there were presentations and on the last day, they got to talk with the other young leaders about the experience.  All the speakers were fun and inspirational but a couple really stood out.  Jim Martinson told them his story.  He was 19 and serving in the military when he stepped on a land mine and lost both his legs and a finger.  He became very depressed until he decided that he had to do something about it.  He started wearing prosthetic legs and then he started skiing. He saw the need and decided to start a wheelchair company, which has been very successful.  In 1996, he won gold in the Paralympics. He told them never to listen to "can't".  He's now worked with many people and has taught others to ski - it's all possible.

Another speaker gave advice on helping others to reach their goals.  He remembered his high school teacher, Miss Larsen, who helped him deal with racism.  The lesson he learned from her and passed on was never to be afraid to ask for help.

Ruthan Howell and Doreen Cato put them into groups and gave each group $130 - real cash.  Each group had a leader and the object was to try and get all the money into one group.  What they learned from the really fun exercise was that there was no right answer and that the real lesson was working together with others.

During the weekend, each group worked on a skit that they performed on the last day.  They did one on The Boy Who Cried Wolf and enjoyed doing it.

They all built good relations with the others who were there and they're still in touch.  All said that they found it life changing and thanked the Club for giving them the experience.

In responding to questions, we learned that there were more than 100 young leaders in attendance.  The girls outnumbered the boys by about 3:1.  The one thing they had to learn were the American terms of 'Juniors', 'Seniors, and 'Freshmen' (there were about 20 seniors).  They didn't find that there were any cultural differences.

They were then presented with a certificate showing that Habrourside had made a donation to the Cridge Centre for the Family in honour of them having come to tell us about their experience at RYLA.