We have just completed two successful courses for 64, 16 and 17 year olds from throughout District 1040

When our Rotary clubs sponsor a candidate, they are making an investment in a young person for which they will always be grateful and will never forget. RYLA does actually change these young peoples lives as they start to realise their leadership potential and gain in confidence throughout the course. It is a huge privilege to work as part of the team that delivers this fantastic programme. 

On the final evening of each course, certificates and RYLA polo shirts were presented by
DG Rod followed by a talent show. We ask the awardees to use the leadership skills they learn throughout the course to run the show including appointing comperes, organising the acts and arranging the running order. We saw performances from a number of individuals and groups which made both nights a huge success. The Thursday evening is an opportunity for everyone to let their hair down after a week of working hard and the awardees embraced the challenge that we set them. These evenings are a great opportunity for Rotarians to visit RYLA and see firsthand the skills learnt by the awardees and the talents they have to offer. We were visited by Rotarians from Halifax, Sowerby Bridge, Brighouse, Ossett, Huddersfield, Bradford West and District Governor Elect Hazel Haas also came to lend her support and familiarise herself with the BBQ for next year!

We also held a Service above Self evening where the awardees filled Shoeboxes with items that they had volunteered to bring and I would like to thank the Rotary Club of Mirfield for sponsoring the Shoeboxes. As part of this evening, Rotarians working on the course gave brief presentations about what Service above Self means to them and we then divided the awardees into groups and asked them to discuss what it means to them and then present back to everyone at the end. We were in awe at the volunteering and fundraising that these young people get involved in and some of the things mentioned were befriending elderly people, running swimming classes for disabled children, coaching football teams, running charity committees in schools. 

We challenge the awardees to raise a minimum of 475 themselves (the cost of a place on the course) for a cause close to their own hearts whether that is through raising money or giving their time. We also suggested that they could offer their help to their sponsoring Rotary Club for any events and keep that connection with Rotary.

I am pleased to report that during the two weeks we raised approximately 350 for the Rotary Shoeboxes from the tuck shop, selling wristbands made and donated by one of the instructors and donations from Rotarians for refreshments. Thank you to everyone who contributed. 

We have a programme of speakers every morning usually selected from the RYLA staff. This year we heard from Steph Budby and Ryan Wilson, both past awardees in 2005 and 2012 respectively about how their RYLA experience has helped shape their lives since. In week 1 we heard from mentor Rebecca Mendoza, originally from Salinas in California who spoke about her experiences of Rotary Youth Exchange and her Ambassadorial Scholarship to York. I also spoke to the awardees about leadership from a business context. In week 2 we were lucky enough to be visited by Elizabeth Wright, a paralympian and medallist from the Atlanta and Sydney games who was inspirational. RYLA made a great impression on her and she has already volunteered to return next year.

Thanks must go once again to the Rotary Clubs in the District for taking the time to select and sponsor young people. We appreciate the hard work that goes into selecting the right candidates. Thank you also for your patience when delivering them to and collecting them from Hebden Hey. I am sure you will be looking forward to hearing your awardee present to your club about their RYLA experience.

I would also like to thank all the Rotarians who worked as mentors on the course. Mentors hold a very special role in RYLA. Each mentor is allocated a team of eight awardees and supports and encourages them throughout the week as they learn and develop. The instructors may only see a particular group once or twice but the mentors are always there and provide consistency throughout the week as the awardees undertake tasks and learn from the feedback they are given. Thank you to Chris Aldred, Rebecca Mendoza, Linda Parker, Richard Greenwood, Gill Poole, Chris Redfearn, Matt Bolton and Paul Hughes. My thanks must also go to Ryan Wilson who worked as our Assistant Course Director this year. 

I would also like to thank Honorary Rotarian from the Rotary Club of Batley and Past Awardee Steph Budby for her work as the RYLA Secretary and the Deputy Course Director this year. Steph has reluctantly decided that this was her last RYLA certainly for the foreseeable future as her focus must now be elsewhere. The work that she has done for RYLA over the last few years cannot be underestimated and I am very grateful to her.

Last but not least, I would like to thank Awesome Adventure, our professional instructors. Their dedication to the learning experience of the young people is wonderful to see and we are very lucky to have them as part of the team.

After catching up on some much needed sleep, we are now preparing to issue the application forms for next year in Octobers District Mailing so please watch this space.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to be the RYLA Course Director and
Chairman and heres to RYLA 2015! 

Lucy Hodgson
RYLA Chairman and Course Director Rotary Club of Halifax lucyh@eastwoodandpartners.co.uk
01422 385362