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 260 approved the project, and on 2 May 1960, RYLA was born.
Australian districts 258 and 260 shared in establishing a committee that developed the official framework of RYLA: to train youth (ages 14-30) in character, leadership, personal development, and good citizenship. These guidelines helped RYLA expand to all Rotary districts in Australia and led to RYLA’s approval as an international program by the RI board at the 1971 RI Convention in Sydney, Australia.
By 1998, RYLA had become an established program in more than half of the 521 Rotary districts worldwide. Also in 1998, then-RI President James Lacy, emphasizing his concern for children, appointed an international RYLA committee, dedicated to improving and expanding this special Rotary program to the entire world. Rotarians with different RYLA experiences were invited to RI headquarters to exchange information and ideas. Participants agreed that RYLA could be improved through regional training workshops.
In 2014, after 18 years at Camp Pirtle, RYLA District 5830 decided to relocate their camp to Clements Scout Ranch, another BSA facility, near Athens, TX. The Clements Scout Ranch provides more space and modern facilities for our growing camp. The board of directors determined that the move would improve the logistics and processes of a large camp like RYLA, allowing the facilitators to concentrate more on building young leaders!
As of 2017, RYLA consists of one training weekend for all staff & facilitators plus two weekend camps for high school juniors from all across District 5830. Each of the high school junior camps typically have about 100 co-ed participants!
Dedication, passion and love describe the heart of RYLA, a most remarkable investment that assures Rotary’s future. Every Rotarian should take the opportunity to enjoy this exciting program and life-changing experience.