About RYLA

What Is RYLA?

Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) is an international program that was created by Rotary International to encourage strong leadership in youth. Young people chosen for their leadership potential attend an all-expense-paid camp to develop and enhance leadership skills through activities conducted in an atmosphere of trust and respect. Throughout the camp we focus on these eight leadership characteristics:

Integrity

Trust

Communication Teamwork
Planning

Problem Solving

Decision Making

Self-Esteem

How RYLA Began

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 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.

Our History

In our local district (5830) RYLA was initiated in 1995, when District Governor John Childs was visiting with Rotarian Guy Martin of Tyler about our district’s need for a RYLA program. Several days after that discussion, Guy called John and told him that he was very interested and would provide the leadership to start such a program. Guy knew two Rotarians in his club who were active in Boy Scouts and they volunteered the facilities at Camp Pirtle along with a similar program that Pirtle was doing with area Scouts. As they say, “the rest is history” and the first RYLA camp in District 5830 was held in 1996 and consisted of 37 campers and 8 Rotary volunteers. As of 2008, RYLA consists of one mandatory camp for all facilitators plus two camps for high school juniors from District 5830. Each of the high school junior camps typically have approximately 50 boys and 50 girls participating!

In 2014, after 18 years at Camp Pirtle, RYLA District 5830 decided to relocate the camp to Clements Scout Ranch, another BSA facility, near Athens, TX.  The Clements Scout Ranch will provide more space and modern facilities.  The board of directors determined that the move improve the logistics and processes of a large camp like RYLA and therefore allow the facilitators and campers to concentrate more on building young leaders!

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.

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.

Over the last 22 years, RYLA 5830 has impacted the lives of thousands of campers, alumni staff, and Rotarians.

Take a look at our journey.