RYLA co-chairman shares observations on area conference.

In early March, Rotary District 7980 which includes most of the shoreline area towns, sponsored its spring Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) program which “provides a model of inspiration for our Rotary brethren”, according to a district advisor for high school youth named David Ullman, a member of the North Haven Rotary Club.  He reported that there were 55 students representing multi-ethnic/racial backgrounds hailing from New Haven/Bridgeport to Madison/Darien. He added, “For 48 hours, over a weekend, these young men and women participated in a wide range of activities designed to reflect the RYLA theme: Living at the Edge of Your Comfort Zone”. Participants from North Haven High School included Angela DeFelippo, a member of the Rotary sponsored Interact Club, as well as Margi Patel who was selected by the school administration.

Expressing how impressed he was, Ullman went on to say that these youth were constantly challenged to explore their skills and talents. He said that they used team-building tasks as a way to examine their personal best efforts, as well as for competing with other groups, all organized to provide a sense of accomplishment while discovering their self-worth.  A “Shark Tank” activity provided participants an opportunity to devise specific community service-based projects while using Rotary’s 4-Way test as their underlying theme. Then they presented their business plans to a three judge panel of present and immediate past Rotary District Governors. 

Student projects included strategies to feed the hungry, building houses for the homeless, and anti-bullying programs that they deliberately designed to implement at their own schools.  Finally, the youth spent two evenings exploring their personal challenges (personal demons) as a component of the weekend theme. “The shared experiences and how these RYLA youth resolved their crises are a testament to their resiliency, as well as to their personal growth and development”, said Ullman.

The district co-chair said that “Rotary’s Fifth Avenue of Service focuses on youth and deserves the time and attention (and admiration) of all of us.”  He strongly encouraged each club that sent students to the RYLA weekend to invite the participants to share their experiences with each local Rotary club, in order to “share with you, so you can learn from them!”