Posted by Bill Chadwick
Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and outdoorRotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) is a training program dedicated to developing the next generation of innovative leaders. Working with students after their sophomore year of high school, Rotary clubs throughout District 7780 selected 144 deserving candidates to send to BSA Camp Hinds in Raymond, Maine to participate in the RYLA program on June 22-26th. Once at camp, RYLA participants are assigned to a Leadership Exploration Group (LEG) with 11 others, and spend four days exploring the intricacies of leadership and how it arises in the real world. The activities the campers participate in focus on team-building, group problem solving, and interpersonal management within project teams.
On Tuesday night June 25th, the last night of RYLA, Rotarians were invited to attend dinner with the students.  I attended and had the privilege of sitting with students our club sponsored.  Each student glowed with enthusiasm about the personal challenges and growth they experienced while at the camp.  I asked one student from Westbrook, ‘What was the most significant thing that you have experienced while attending the camp?’  He responded, “I discovered things about myself that I really like, and I discovered things about myself that I really want to change. I want to become a better person.”  Wow!
Another student from Gorham told me of her fear of heights and how she overcame her fear to actually complete the high ropes course!  She stated, “My whole LEG cheered me on and inspired me.  Our group was so tight, and I learned the value of positive reinforcement and team work.”
As the evening ended each LEG did skits that reflected on aspects of ROTARY.  Some students did one that illustrated the Four Way Test and it was very entertaining.  As I got ready to leave student after student thanked me and our club for sponsoring them this year.  I can honestly say it was a wonderful time and I love the students we support.  It is in my opinion, one of our greatest gifts to the next generation.