Posted by Paul Elsley, 7040 RYLA District Chair
When the pandemic arrived in North America in early March, plans for RYLA were put in jeopardy. The planning team investigated and quickly decided to pursue an online version modified to suit the Zoom platform. A total of 25 clubs from two Districts (7010 and 7040) including NY state, Quebec and central and eastern Ontario sent 52 delegates to the leadership academy. This represented a significant increase from the past two years and established new benchmarks for future years.
 
We set four goals for RYLA – development of leadership skills, building of community projects, identifying contacts for future benefit, and making lots of new friends. The results far exceeded expectations!
 
The RYLA working group consisted of 4 members from the Kingston, Frontenac and Rotaract clubs of McGill. In addition, there were 3 Rotarians and 12 Rotaractors that assisted with the delivery of the program. In addition, there were 2 former RYLA students who outlined the impact the conference had on them and how they translated that experience into action in the intervening two years. In total, 21 members of the Rotary family worked very hard to ensure that the students had a wonderful learning experience!
 
Students developed their leadership skills in three ways. Three experts in the field defined leadership skills and paths getting students to assess their own skill set (identifying areas of current strength and future growth) in the process. Delegates engaged with other students in icebreakers and leadership activities in order to get to know other delegates. They also created impressive group projects relating to planned COVID-19 efforts. Each student will take those project ideas back to their schools and communities for implementation in the summer and fall with an opportunity to apply for small RYLA grants. The activities and presentations left everyone feeling inspired!
 
In their reviews of the conference, all delegates commented on how much they enjoyed their experience. That said, they offered some suggestions for improvement including a longer RYLA and the opportunity for the same delegates to return in person next year. We hope that clubs will make this possible.
 
It has been a distinct pleasure hosting RYLA in Kingston for the past three years. We look forward to assisting RYLA as it moves to the Montreal area next year!