Experiencing R.Y.L.A.

When I sent in my application for the Rotary Youth Leadership Award, I will admit I was going in almost completely blind.

  • Aug. 11, 2013 11:00 a.m.

When I sent in my application for the Rotary Youth Leadership Award, I will admit I was going in almost completely blind. All I knew is that it was some sort of camp that Rotary sponsored, you had to be 18 to 25 to apply, had something to do with leadership and you had to be selected by your local Rotary Group to go.

I had honestly no idea as to how long this camp was, what we would do, how many people were going, etc. Not from lack of trying might I add, I tried both looking at the website and Googling it, but nothing I could find really told me anything about it.

“Well,” I thought, “I might not even get to go.” And with that I carried on to other things.

That was, until I received a phone call several weeks later. “Congratulations you are the recipient of the 2013 R.Y.L.A Award! You are heading off to camp on June 29 until July 6!” After some last minute packing I was on my way to this R.Y.L.A, my stomach getting into a bigger knot the closer we got to Castlegar.

When we finally pulled up into the parking lot I saw all the staff bouncing about, one of which heading in my direction. My feet had barely reached the pavement before I was suddenly engulfed in a giant hug from some guy I didn’t even know!

“Welcome to R.Y.L.A! I’m Ryan!”

He then scooped up my bag in his left hand and my arm in the other and took off towards the registration desk. This was my first introduction to the fact that nobody was shy here and hugs were received and given every minute or so.

Oh, and I was strictly informed that I was not to lose my name tag because that was “A VERY SERIOUS CRIME” (might I add all the staff chime this out happily at the top of their lungs upon your arrival) and if caught, you will be chosen for “an opportunity for improvement” in front of everyone at camp (which was pretty silly and entertaining). That was reason enough for me to practically glue the thing to my shirt.

The first day was really awkward, considering i’m shy and I was shoved into a mass of 50 or so people I didn’t know, but once we were put into our small groups and starting doing activities everyone started opening up, myself included. We learned through different constructive tasks to work in teams and to engage in conversation.

In the days to come we went to many seminars on interesting and engaging topics about leadership, goal setting, public speaking, controlling fear, dealing with grief, confidence building, health and travel. Many of the speakers they brought in were just fantastic, they spoke with that kind of influence and enthusiasm that made you want to get out and do things.

There were also so many stories about past RYLArians who after going to R.Y.L.A,  gave them that boost they needed to do what they had only fantasized about. That in itself was inspiring.

For one whole week they basically pounded into us that the only thing stopping us from getting to where we want to be is the fear of success.

With success comes change and people tend to not like change because it stretches them out of their comfort zone. So the only thing holding you back from your dreams is yourself.

I know it sounds kind of cliche but its true and after a whole week of this kind of stuff you really start to believe in it as well as who you are as a person. I can’t really describe what its like, but it is most definitely life altering, in a good way. It really does make you want to be a better person and to not only succeed but to help others. Compassion is one of the keys to success.

If when I first walked onto that campus and you had told me that I wouldn’t want to leave on that last day, or would tear up when it came time to say goodbye to the people I had met, I would have said “funny story.”

But in the end it was so hard to say our farewells because there is something unique about R.Y.L.A that we just can’t quite describe and the people I met there I will cherish forever. I can’t thank the Rotary Club of Nakusp enough for giving me the opportunity to go there, or all the staff and campers at R.Y.L.A who made me always feel accepted and motivated. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for encouraging me towards my goals and dreams.

-Contributed by Amy Surina