RYLA is an experiential learning program for young adults that emphasizes leadership, citizenship and personal growth. The program demonstrates Rotary's respect and concern for youth by providing an effective training experience for potential leaders, encouraging leadership of youth by youth, and publicly recognizing young people who serve their community. Rotary Clubs seek out and sponsor high school students to attend an all-expenses-paid camp where they are inspired by a diverse group of exceptional speakers, make life-long friends through fellowship activities, and discuss the ethical and social issues of today. These activities are conducted in an atmosphere of trust and respect. The result is that these students return to their schools and communities motivated to take on additional leadership roles and to find additional ways to serve. Core topics during this camp include:
RYLA is founded on the ideal that the future of Rotary is reliant on the youth of its community. We, Rotary District 7610, believe that the core educational foundation of RYLA is essential in equipping our youth with the necessary experiences, relationships, and knowledge that will foster the development of a responsible citizen.
In 1959, the state government of Queensland, Australia, invited local Rotarians to help plan a festival celebrating Queensland’'s upcoming centenary. Learning that Queen Elizabeth II was sending her cousin Princess Alexandra, who was in her early 20s, to the celebration, Rotarians planned activities specifically for the princess' age group.
The gundoo, an aboriginal word meaning "festival" or "fun together," was a rousing success. More than 300 men and women between the ages of 17 and 23 attended. Encouraged by the event's popularity with the young attendees, Rotarians saw potential to create a similar annual youth program. With little hesitation, Governor Art Brand of then-District 230 approved the project, and on 2 May 1960, the first Rotary Youth Leadership Award Camp known as RYLA was born.
The Camp RYLA committee of Rotary District 7610 (Northern/Central Virginia) has elected to focus on high school juniors and seniors. This will allow participants to share their leadership skills and the information they glean from RYLA with their student bodies over the next year.
RYLA participants are selected on the basis of academic excellence and their potential to be leaders in their schools and their communities. Emphasis is given to Interact Club officers and members to strengthen their leadership skills. Relationships developed at past RYLA camps have lead to lifelong friendships among many of the participants.