Rotary Youth Leadership Awards
Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) is a leadership program coordinated by Rotary Clubs around the globe. Each year, thousands of young people participate in this program. Young people ages 14–30 are sponsored by Rotary Clubs to attend the event run by the club's district committee. Participants are chosen for their leadership potential. Rotary Clubs and the Rotary District cover all expenses for the participants. The format of the event vary from district to district, but commonly take the form of a seminar, camp, or workshop to discuss leadership skills and to learn those skills through practice. Rotary clubs and districts select participants and facilitate the event's curriculum.
RYLA 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;
- Recognise publicly young people who are rendering service to their communities.
Every RYLA program covers the following core topics:
- Fundamentals of leadership
- Ethics of positive leadership
- Importance of communication skills in effective leadership
- Problem-solving and conflict management
- Rotary's purpose and service to the community
- Building self-confidence and self-esteem
- Elements of community and global citizenship
After District 5520's first RYLA, a participant summed up his experience in one word: Camelot. He wrote:
"If you know the story of King Arthur, you may recall that as King Arthur was dying in a young man's arms, he turned to the youth and said, If you learn of anyone that has not heard of Camelot, tell them loudly and clearly that there really was that one wisp of glory called Camelot."
RYLA participants often go on to become Youth Exchange students, Rotaract participants or Ambassadorial Scholars.
In 1959, the state government of Queensland, Australia, invited local Rotary Clubs to help plan an event to help celebrate the upcoming centennial of the state. Princess Alexandra, who was in her early 20s was due to attend the celebrations, so activities were planned specifically for the princess's age group.
The gundoo, an aboriginal word meaning "festival" or "fun together," was deemed successful with more than 300 men and women between the ages of 17 and 23 attending. Encouraged by the event's popularity with the young attendees, Rotary saw potential to create an annual youth program based on Gundoo. The governor of the then District 260, Art Brand, approved the project and on 2 May 1960, RYLA was an official Rotary project.
Australian districts 258 and 260 established a committee together that developed the official framework of RYLA:
to train youth ages 14-30 in character, leadership, personal development, and good citizenship.
These guidelines helped RYLA expand to all Rotary districts in Australia and led to its approval as a Rotary International program by the RI Board at the 1971 Convention in Sydney, Australia.
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