Students attend RYLA

Leadership camp brings new realizations


RYLA is a leadership camp meant for middle and high school students. During this experience, students learn about problem-solving strategies, listen to speakers, and participate in team building exercises. Photo from website

Story by Cameron Murry, staff writer

The Rotary Youth Leadership Awards camp was held from Feb. 23-25 in Athens, Texas.

“This camp is held for student leaders to experience teamwork and trust building skills through various outdoor group activities. There will be over 100 students at this camp that have been meticulously selected through a process of application by a panel of Rotary members. Being selected for this camp is something to be proud of. Only seven students out of the 420 in the junior class from Texas High School were selected to attend this event.

Andi Darby, RYLA leader, has been attending the camp since its opening in 1995. She has led multiple students and staff to breaking out of their shell and discovering their own integrity.

“I think RYLA gets the kids to think more of a leader and as part of a team because of all the different activities and elements that they’ll experience,” Darby said. “They become very close with their teammates and will try different things that they’ve never tried before and think outside the box and within the team.”

Submitted photo

The RYLA program gives student leaders an opportunity to explore other aspects of leadership and teamwork in real-world and outdoor settings. The creative thinking and leadership aspect of RYLA is something that Rotarian Andi Darby takes pride in.

“I think it gives you different perspectives and outcomes in your thinking and makes you do a different kind of thinking,” Darby said. “Different kinds of thinking helps you expand your horizons.”

The leadership opportunities of this camp aim to shape student leaders into future leaders to better their lives and the lives of others.

“I love to network,” Bursey-Reece said. “I love to jump on the opportunity to hone my leadership skills so I can be the best person I can be in the future.”

For junior Nabil Kalam, it was an influential experience.

Hearing their problems made me realize that life isn’t fair, but we can still come together and be friends.”

— Nabil Kalam

“The camp had a lot for us to do. In the end, I was pretty tired. I met a lot of new people,” Kalam said. “The group circle got deep. Hearing their problems made me realize that life isn’t fair, but we can still come together and be friends. The day after was fun with the zip-lining and rock climbing, but that moment was pretty serious. It made me appreciate what I have in life more. If I didn’t meet those guys, I wouldn’t know that. RYLA was fun. I would recommend others to go next

The camaraderie and communication shared between students at the camp makes for lifelong connections and memories. From the first night, teams bonded and built foundations for improving individual leadership skills.

The camp attendees will be speaking at Rotary club luncheons about their RYLA experiences over the next two weeks.