Rotary's Youth Leadership Awards Course is a great opportunity for young people to gain leadership skills. This year it was our great pleasure to sponsor two youngsters from the Prince of Wales Youth Club (POWYC) in Canterbury.
RYLA is Rotary's leadership development programme for young people; it aims, through its residential short course, to encourage the development of teamwork and leadership skills in those who have the potential to be future community and business leaders.
Under the scheme, Rotary Clubs within Rotary South East offer young people aged 14-18 years old the chance to take part in RYLA' s unique experience. The scheme emphasizes leadership, citizenship, and personal growth. It also "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 and recognise publicly young people who are rendering service to their communities".
Last October, our club offered two local youngsters the chance to go on the course. The two schoolgirls, Destiny Gordon and Shannon Boden, came to our club on Tuesday evening to tell us what the course involved and what they enjoyed most. They were accompanied by Joey Wicks, Co-ordinator of the POWYC. We already have great links with the latter, and it was nice to continue this relationship through sponsoring the two youth club members.
The youngsters gave their talk in tandem, ably juggling the microphone and PowerPoint presentation between them.
They started by telling us how great it was to meet the other 15 or so young people on the course ... although this was said with some sorrow as one of the group sadly passed away earlier this month - a hard thing for people to come to terms with at any age; our thoughts are with all of those affected.
The girls went on to give us a day-by-day breakdown of activities following their initial "getting to know each other" session and meal. Straight away they got involved in various team-building exercises - passing hoops and crossing "swamps". As well as learning new skills, both girls felt they had learned about trust and team work through these activities.
After breakfast on day two the youngsters went on a scavenger hunt - they had the multiple challenge of finding feathers and different leaves ... and also taking a photo of the group jumping in unison! The youngsters were competing with each other to get a "code". This time the girls both added communication skills to the other skills that they were picking up.
Interestingly, each activity was led by a different leader, giving all the youngsters a chance to take on a leadership role and also learn about different ways of leadership. Some were quite dictatorial (giving commands "like in the military") while others were described as "more social". (Quizzed by one of our members about which sort of leadership they liked, both agreed they preferred the "social" way).
Next, the teams were involved in aqueduct-building, and building and raising a flagpole. This gave them a chance to strengthen the communication, leadership and teamwork skills that they had already started to pick up.
Their next challenge was to go to the swimming pool and build a raft from plastic bottles and other items. The girls seemed to have enjoyed the challenge.
That evening they did a blindfolded "night walk" challenge - unable to see, but using a guide rope to get from one point to another, with leaders telling them which direction (up or down) they were to go. "Some of us did get some bumps," they said, adding with a giggle "but it was all part of the fun!"
The youngsters got to relax over games of table tennis. The girls also gave lots of details about the meals they had, so it seemed those had been enjoyable. In fact, they described the meals as "really good!".
On the third and final day the youngsters gave presentations to their parents and course organisers on a pre-selected group of topics: Rotary; Polio or ShelterBox (both Rotary-supported initiatives; and Interact (a junior arm of Rotary).
They then said their goodbyes to their new friends, exchanging contacts and already planning a meet-up in Ashford.
The course certainly seemed to be a positive experience for the girls, and Joey seemed proud of both of them. Given that the girls were giving their first public talk in front of a (somewhat) intimidating Rotarians, we, and Joey, were all impressed with their presentation and new found confidence. Joey pointed out that one of the girls, Shannon, was already a volunteer with the junior youth club so would have a chance to put her new found skills into action.
We hope the girls' experiences will stand them in good stead in their future careers and lives, and we hope they are also able to share some of their new found skills with fellow members of the youth club and their school colleagues. We also hope they both go on to become leaders one day ... and perhaps come back to tell us how they have got on!
Picture: The two girls tell us about the RYLA leadership course using PowerPoint presentations that they had prepared themselves. Picture credit: Rotary Club of Canterbury.
With thanks to John Hill for providing details.