5th Annual RYLA conference held in Ocean City

OCEAN CITY — Rotary District 7630 recently held its 5th Annual RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards) Conference at the Carousel Hotel in Ocean City. 125 teens, primarily high school juniors, were brought together from throughout the Rotary district, which encompasses the Eastern Shore of Maryland and all of Delaware. They met on Friday night to begin a weekend of leadership training which included speakers, discussion groups and some fun team building activities.

Upon arrival, the delegates, who are sponsored by a Rotary Club in the District, registered and immediately began a “Get Acquainted” activity. This year’s activity was a form of Bingo. The delegates move around the room, introduce themselves and find someone who knows different pieces of information, primarily about Rotary. This is the first time most of the delegates will have met.

Following the “Get Acquainted” activity, the delegates and group leaders spend the next hour packing meals for Stop Hunger Now. Again this year, 10,000 bags were packed which represents 60,000 meals to be sent around the world to areas where people do not have nutritional food. This activity was accomplished in just about one hour.

After a brief welcome and pizza, the delegates move into their preassigned groups each with a group leader. The group leaders, again this year, are members of Rotaract Clubs at Del State, UMES and Washington College. Rotaract are the college-age clubs sponsored by Rotary. Their members are ages 18-30. This year the groups were put together based on the school they attend and the community where it is located. In some cases, the schools sent enough delegates to form a whole group while other groups were made up of several schools.

Once in their groups, they have three main goals for the weekend – pick a mascot, create a Group flag, using the words that make up RYLA, and create a community service project they can take back to their school and community. The groups have several work sessions, throughout the weekend, to work on their project. Once they have selected a project and created a plan of action, they are to design a power point to be presented on Sunday afternoon. The presentations are done before the other groups, staff, parents and Rotarian guests.

The delegates, also, have had an opportunity to hear several speakers talk about a variety of subjects but all with a universal theme, “The Leader in You.” Each of the speakers, throughout the weekend stressed, one person can make a difference and you are the one person. The first two speakers were Eric Smith, “The Delaware Charity Company” and Chase Marvil, “The Inspiring Project” about the charities they started and the impact they have made. They, also, spoke about the use of social media to accomplish their goals and to inspire people. Dr. Samantha Scott presented an important subject, to the group, through her talk “More Than Sad.” She spoke about fighting teen depression and suicide and how “you” can help someone battling.

Saturday morning came to a close with “The Incredible Egg Drop.” Each group had to create a package that would allow them to pack an egg and drop from the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors, without breaking. Although a fun activity, it helps to teach the group members to work together and plan things out.

The afternoon involved hands on team building activities, teaching the delegates to work together. They were, also, involved in discussion groups which were pertinent to their generations. Topics such as, drugs, conflict resolution, the environment, social media and how our communities are changing.

The fun activity to close the night was the Four-Way Theater Ethical Dilemma skits. Each group was given an ethical dilemma and had to create a skit as to how they would handle the situation. They were encouraged to use the Rotary Four-Way to come up with a solution.

Sunday morning, two Rotarians who had been with RYLA all five years, spoke to the group about their “what one person can do” stories.

Kenny Wood, owner of a local well drilling company, travels to Africa 3-4 times per year to drill wells in communities that would not have water, if it weren’t for him. Several years ago, he not only donated some of his equipment but traveled to Africa to teach the people how to use the equipment. All at his own expense.

The weekend ended with all 12 groups doing their Group presentations to the other groups and guests. Each group explained their project and why it was important. At the end of the presentations, each group voted on “the best presentation” without voting on their own.

With this year’s vote, the groups selected Group #1 from Dorchester County. The 10 students, 2 from North Dorchester High School and 8 from Cambridge-South Dorchester High School were led by Group leader Pria Dutt, a junior at Washington College and President of the School’s Rotaract Club. Making this group unique is the fact that Pria is a 2014 graduate of North Dorchester High School, making this year’s winners an all-Dorchester County Team.

The Community Service Project the Group designed was called “Kids Best Friend.” They were hoping to create an organization that would team up dogs with young people who have disabilities. The Group said they know there are students, of all ages, who have any number of physical or psychological issues that make it difficult to associate with other students. They felt that having access to dogs that can be a companion the students can visit will be beneficial.

Besides Rotaractor Pria Dutt, the Group was made up of Devon Tyler, Jenna Usilton, Natalie Anderson, Emily Bloodsworth, Keysha Torres-Ortiz, Madison Rolf, Jordan LeCompte, Katelyn Hagan, Carrie Price and Connor McCroy. The Group plans to meet to work out design details and to find resources they may be able to get to help them.

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