Three West Orange – Stark High School students Rebekah Ragsdale, Shabana Navrozali, and Chase Adams were a few of almost 300 students selected to participate in the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) held in Woodlake earlier this year.

Ragsdale, a junior, and Navrozali, a senior, along with WO-S High School senior Chase Adams, spent two and a half days in the intense and highly structured leadership program.

The goal of the program is to produce graduates who will improve the quality of their respective environments and organizations.
The students interact with community leaders, discuss current issues facing future leaders, and also work through a set of challenges, including some physical challenges, which allow them to stretch their leadership skills to new heights.
Students are chosen to participate based upon their leadership potential. The program’s curriculum includes:
·         Fundamentals of leadership
·         Ethics of positive leadership
·         Importance of communications skills in effective leadership
·         Problem-solving and conflict-management
·         What Rotary is and what it does for the local community
·         Building self-confidence and self-esteem
·         Elements of community and global citizenship while reflecting issues of local relevance in a manner appropriate to local customs.
The impact of the program spreads further as the program awardees influence other young people.
Shabana Navrozali described her experience at RYLA as “unforgettable.” She said RYLA assisted her in being more confident and showed her the influence that she can have on others.
“Confidence goes hand-in-hand with leadership,” she said.
Also she said that the best aspect of RYLA for her was the activities.
“Each activity had to do with 4-Way Test: Of the things we think, say or do
·         Is it the Truth?
·         Is it Fair to all concerned?
·         Will it build Goodwill and Better Friendships?
·         Will it be Beneficial to all concerned?”
Navrozali’s favorite activity was the ropes course which allowed her to explore teamwork and its benefits.
Rebekah Ragsdale also described the experience as “amazing,” saying it was so much more than she ever could have imagined.
“RYLA has helped me develop my leadership potential in recognizing that there is no limit to what I can do. It allowed me to work with lots of different people and several different personalities. It has shown me that no matter the circumstance, I should always step up for what I believe is right or if I think my idea can be beneficial to my group,” Ragsdale said.
Chase Adams attended the leadership program in 2007 as a youth participant and was selected to return and serve as a 2008 Alumni Youth Leader during this year’s program.
“It was my job to take a little bit of control and use my abilities to guide and trust that the others would follow,” he said.
He led his group through the physical challenges as well as the informational workshops. He also encouraged and fostered the development of new relationships since students were grouped with others from different geographical areas.
During his two years of attendance, Adams said the RYLA leadership program has helped him in many ways such as developing his communication skills, as well as improving his ability to voice his opinion, learn from others, and be approachable.
Additionally, he said, “I’ve learned that sometimes it’s okay to fail in order to achieve greater success.”
The skills developed at the leadership program are skills that all three of the students say they will use in high school, college, and in their future careers.
This year’s RYLA guest speakers were Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, and motivational speaker Lance Watson. The Rotary Clubs of LaMarque, Fredonia, and Huntsville also presented information regarding their respective special projects which were the Africa Book Project, the Haiti Project, and a Youth Exchange program, respectively.
At the closing of the event Adams, as well as three other Alumni Youth Leaders, was awarded a Marcus Junemann Scholarship to return to RYLA as a Senior Youth Alumni Leader in 2009. He and the other awardees will serve as trainers for the program.
RYLA was held at the Pineywoods Baptist Encampment.