During the second semester of my sophomore year, I was selected to attend a 5 day leadership experience for my school’s Interact Club called “RYLA”. RYLA, which stands for Rotary Youth Leadership Awards is a leadership camp for rising high school juniors and seniors who are in Interact Clubs.
When I was on the bus on my way to RYLA, I was pretty nervous because I didn’t know anybody. However, when I stepped foot on the campus of Georgia Southwestern State University for RYLA, everything changed, and everyone was friendly and welcoming.
From the moment I dropped my stuff off and left my dorm room, I couldn’t wait to meet my team. I was on the turquoise team. After we were learning how to unravel a tarp and playing a game with tennis balls, our group of 10 became more than just a group– we became a family.
I spent almost every meal with my friend group: Quinny, Ella, and Aidan. We got very close and learned a lot about one another. I feel like we're a family now.
Amazingly, I met another friend at RYLA named Peyton. She turned into a sister, and we even found out we have the exact same birthday. Peyton now has a special place in my heart, and she will forever be my birthday twin!
After the first day, we were all grouped with other teams. Turquoise was grouped with orange, red was grouped with grey, and so on. We played team bonding games and learned to trust one another.
One of the scariest things I did at RYLA (and I think ever) was doing a trust fall from a really high point. I was beyond scared. Of course I was caught, and a huge thanks to everyone who caught me. I also did a zipper activity, where you do a trust fall into your team and then get lifted up. I actually enjoyed that a lot because it felt fun and it was the first time I let someone lift me up on higher ground.
The main part of being a member of an Interact or Rotary Club is community service. One of my favorite things I participated in at RYLA was a community service project in which my team helped paint and clean up a lake shed at Georgia Southwestern State University. It made me want to advocate for community service a lot more, because everyone deserves a chance at having a great life.
Another one of my favorite activities during RYLA was the Whole Earth Game. In this activity, everyone is trying to end world hunger. Each person is assigned an area of the world, and they have to find solutions to solve the hunger crisis there. This activity was very important to me because world hunger is a major problem. I also feel like we should all take the time to help those in need. During the game, I also learned that the average American spends $118 on a super bowl party. That’s enough money to feed an African child for two years. Rather than having a super bowl party for $118, I think people should donate the money to feed an African child for two years.
One of the most amazing people I met at RYLA was a woman named Patti Robertson. I really think Ms. Patti changed my life forever. We discussed so many topics with her and she made me trust my team even more. Our discussions with her and my team got deep and personal. I ended up learning so much about each and everyone on the team, and everyone I met, and it really made me love them even more, especially my team.
Camper Bull was a speaker at RYLA and he really encouraged us. He believed in all of us and taught us how to get past our fears. During his time with us, we were given a board, and told to write down our fears on one side and our dreams on the other. We had to break those boards with our feet (like you do in Tae-kwon-do). When I eventually broke that board, everyone cheered me on, and I was super relieved to have finally done it. This activity taught me how to believe in myself, and showed me how to conquer my fears and how dreams can become a reality. A huge thanks to Camper Bull for getting me past my fear and more towards my dreams and a successful and strong life.
One of the strongest people I met at RYLA was a man named Damien Boudreaux. After overcoming hardships in his life, Damien became a powerful and strong man. Damien conducted an “I Am” activity with us, where we wrote down a list of adjectives to describe who we are (I am beautiful, I am smart, etc.). Damien showed us how to be more confident, and thanks to Damien and the people at RYLA, I definitely am more confident. Everyone should have a Damien Boudreaux in their life, in my opinion.
What RYLA ultimately taught me was that we are the future generation of leaders. When we go out into the real world, we will deal with issues such as conflict and teamwork. Thanks to the amazing skills I learned at RYLA, I have now have the skills to learn how to deal with any pressing issue. Leadership is an important aspect of life, and the youth are the builders. It is our time for our generation to shine.
Never in my whole life have the people at RYLA been more loving, accepting, and inclusive. To the Turquoise Team, aka “Squid Squad,” thank you for being the best group a girl could ask for. To everyone I met at RYLA, you are all strong people, and you can get through anything. We will always be a family, and we all met for a reason. I cannot wait to see what you all do in the future.
Perri Schwartz is a BBG from B’yachad BBG #2495 in Greater Atlanta Region #55. She has photographic memory, loves to fight for what she belives in, and hopes to be a professional journalist.
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