Whoever said you can’t teach an old Rotarian new tricks doesn’t know Hawai‘i Rotarians. For the first time in the 50-year history of the annual Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) in-person camps, the Rotary Clubs of District 5000 (Hawai‘i) facilitated an all-island virtual camp with 110 participants on Feb. 26 and 27 due to the ongoing pandemic.
RYLA is an annual leadership program officially adopted by Rotary International in 1971 and coordinated by Rotary Clubs around the globe. Today, 160 countries offer RYLA camps. Thousands of young people are sponsored by Rotary Clubs to attend events run by the clubs’ district committee.
RYLA offers an opportunity for our next generation of leaders to define themselves while expanding their own leadership skills through lessons based on Rotary principles such as the Four-Way Test: “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?” In addition to leadership skills, RYLA lessons help youth build character, self-confidence, personal development, self-awareness and good citizenship practices.
Student camp participants are typically high school age. Of the 60 percent of Hawai‘i Rotarians who shared their birth years, 64 was the average age. Rotary’s mature members have much to offer students — and visa versa. The 2021 RYLA camp itself was a product of multigenerational problem solving. An all-island Rotary committee led RYLA into the virtual world, with the help of students.
Hawai’i RYLA Committee Member Gail Takaki, a 1975 University of Hawai‘i graduate, has been part of the core RYLA team on Hawai‘i Island since 2010. She connected RYLA and Jakob Au, a software engineering student at Drexel University, who came home to Hilo for spring break in 2020 and was still there a year later. Jakob developed and ran RYLA’s virtual platform, training senior Rotarians and tech savvy RYLA students alike on Zoom and Discord platforms.
He facilitated the event without a hitch.
“The trick to this virtual world is to be open to our youth’s virtual-world talents,” said O‘ahu RYLA Co-chair Rick Tabor (Generations Magazine community development director).
“The COVID-19 pandemic presented opportunities for problem solving, community collaboration, creativity and action,” says Gail. “Learning is an everyday activity.” It is essential to our ability to survive and thrive. My passion has always been helping people grow. My life work is about understanding what children or adults desire and their needs, and providing the opportunities for their experimentation and learning that is truly their own. Discovery of one’s courage and capacity to explore new ideas, people and things lead us all through challenges to valuable and personal rewards. RYLA 2021 was simply a joy to create.”
At the conclusion of the virtual camp, graduates presented 11 powerful community projects. RYLA’s lessons in leadership became Gen Z’s declarations, announcing their arrival as they prepare to lead the world to better places. RYLA 2021 was an amazing experience for all concerned.
ROTARY DISTRICT 5000 HAWAII (501(c) 3 nonprofit)
Rotary D5000, P O Box 3325, Honolulu, HI 96801
808-536-8778 | www.rotaryd5000.org
For more information about the Feb. 11 to 13, 2022, RYLA event: https://rotaryd5000.org/sitepage/ryla