Twenty-two local individuals participated in the RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards) leadership conference Jan. 6-8, at the Pineywoods Encampment in Woodlake, Texas.

This program, sponsored by area Rotary Clubs in District 5910, provides high school students with leadership enhancement opportunities as well as team building exercises.

Bridge City/Orangefield Rotary Club sponsored the following: Bridge City High School representatives Zachary Cole, Nicholas Portacci, Craig Sterling and Sydney Shepard; Orangefield High School students Luke Johnson, Reagan Ficken, Macy Hamilton, and Elizabeth Newell; and Community Christian High School representatives Lauren Leger and Melanie Benoit. The Orange Rotary Club sponsored the following: Little Cypress Mauriceville students Julian Edwards and Lacy Woodard; and West Orange Stark High School representatives Julius Krolley and Darylyn Pollard.

Three area high school seniors served as Alumni Leaders for the three day event: Karli Anderson of Bridge City High School, Robert Ehrlich of Orangefield High School and Kyle Herfurth of Little Cypress High School. Local educator Ryan DuBose returned for his seventh year at RYLA and served as the Adult Leader for the counselors and alumni trainers.

Bridge City/Orangefield Rotary President-elect Jason Wagoner and Orangefield Interact Club sponsor Bridget Luna Trawhon attended as chaperones. In addition, two men who were instrumental in the establishment of RYLA in District 5910, Ronnie Hutchison and Charles Atkinson served as adult leaders for the weekend’s events.

The adults at RYLA invited Luke Johnson and Zach Cole to return in 2013 as camp counselors and Macy Hamilton is an alternate. In addition, they also selected Robert Ehrlich out of the 24 counselors to return next January as one of the four adult trainers. He was presented with a $650 scholarship to use at the university of his choice.

Robert Ehrlich stated, “I thoroughly believe in what RYLA does for its participants — teaching optimism, enthusiasm, logical reasoning and most of all what it means to truly be a leader. I am humbled and honored to be invited to be a part of it once again.”

According to Reagan Ficken, “RYLA was life-changing for me. It made me realize that my sole purpose is to be a leader, but that leadership is not about me, but moreover, others. RYLA has shown new avenues in my life that I would have never seen, but avenues that are totally worth pursuing. I am incredibly thankful to all of the Rotarians and the Clubs that made RYLA possible, and helped me to be a leader in a world that is desperate for them.”