Local students grow as part of RYLA program

Published 8:30 pm Friday, March 13, 2020

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RYLA is an acronym that is, perhaps, not as familiar as SEC or LOL but is it one that is most familiar to Maggie Hammond and the six students who recently attended the.

Rotary Youth Leadership Awards at Camp ASCCA.

Hammond, Troy Rotary Club president, volunteered as a good leader at RYLA.

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“RYLA is an intensive leadership experience organized by Rotary Clubs and districts,” Hammond said. “This year, Troy Rotary club selected five students from Pike Liberal Arts School to attend RYLA, and the Brundidge Rotary Club selected one student from Pike County High School from applications submitted to their schools. The students were then reviewed by the sponsoring clubs.

Pike Liberal Arts students, Abigail Garrett, Claire-Ann Manning, Cathy Stockstill, Grace Thomas and Hope Thomas and Joe Riley from Crenshaw Christian Academy represented the Troy and Brundidge Rotary clubs at RYLA.

Hammond was team leader of the 11-member Lucky Charms team.

“All team members were strangers with the exception of two,” Hammond said. “But, they came together as a team as if they had known each other for years.”

Hammond said the opening speaker was Al Mathis whose grandfather, Herbert J. Taylor, created the Four-Way Test in order to turn around a failing business. Al Mathis talked about the history of the Four-Way Test – Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?  – and encouraged the students to memorize it and apply it to their own lives.   

Over the four days, the RYLA campers were given different tasks, some were very challenging.

“They had to work together to find a solution–as group leader I was just a facilitator, and couldn’t help them,” Hammond said. “I stood back and watched as they analyzed the task and figured out how to go forward.” 

Hammond said the group leaders wanted the participants to have the opportunity to grow as leaders, so they tried to put them in awkward situations.

“For example, if someone was generally quiet and soft-spoken during a session, we asked that person to take charge and provide direction to the others. If someone was naturally a leader, we asked that person to sit back and just follow instructions for a while.”

One of the sessions was on budgeting, and the students had to think of the expenses they would have when they’re on their own: housing, food, clothing, transportation, recreation, etc.  After prioritizing their expenses, they broke into groups of three and were given $1,000 in Monopoly money. They were given different scenarios and had to decide how they wanted to spend their money. After going through all their expenses and seeing how much money they had left, they were hit with an unexpected expense, and not everyone had money left to handle that.”

There was also a session on decision-making skills, and they had to work through a scenario of choosing a college.

“I really enjoyed getting to know the students. I had so much fun, and I was really impressed at how bright and motivated the students were,” Hammond said.  I’ve already agreed to be a group leader again next year. It was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.”

And, for the students, RYLA was just as rewarding.

“This leadership camp was an amazing experience where I learned that leading others requires input from everyone around you in order to do your job the best possible way,” said Grace Thomas. “From skits to speakers and everything in between this camp taught us to work together as a team. Through this experience, I have gained life-long friends and valuable skills. I would recommend RYLA to anyone in high school whether you consider yourself a leader or not.”

For Cathy Stockstill and Abigail Garrett it was a “great experience.”

“We learned a lot about teamwork and building good character,” Abigail said. “This camp would be a very good opportunity for all high schools. We learned about financing and cultural understanding to help us prepare for real-world experiences.”

Rotary’s Four-Way test is a great guide for us before making big decisions, Cathy said. “We also had fun square dancing and singing along to songs played on the accordion.”

If given the opportunity to attend RYLA again, Hope Thomas said she would “definitely go again.”

“I heard from many inspirational speakers and learned how to prepare myself for college,” Hope said. “There were several fun team activities including a two-story cargo net and zip line. We also did a skit about the Rotary Clubs’ impact on the world. Overall, it was a very fun and educational camp where I made several new friends. It was a great learning experience.”