Welcome to eRYLA!
Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) is a leadership retreat that allows youth to explore their leadership qualities and to understand the qualities of others. Attendees learn how to most effectively utilize everyone on the team and how to stay sane in this crazy, busy world. Students participate in a challenge course, explore character qualities and learn about what it takes to be a leader in the community. We accomplish all of this in unique and fun ways. Each year, new attendees join returning students from their district, for a leadership experience like no other. Camp RYLA is 100% free for attendees! Rotarians cover all costs.
eRYLA, presented by Leader N U, was developed by Rotarians, RYLA Alum, and staff from all experience levels. We didn’t want our own RYLA camps to be cancelled due to the pandemic, so we sought out building an alternative! We’ve created a truly engaging and interactive experience for high school students to teach the same leadership concepts and skills that are explored at traditional in-person RYLA. After a successful run of our new virtual RYLA experience, and knowing that everyone else was going through the same thing, we knew we wanted to be able to share this powerful program.
Utilizing a combination of tangible materials mailed to each camper and gamified activities through the web interface, campers have fun, meet other students, bond with their teams, and learn leadership and team skills from amazing Rotarians, professionals, RYLA alum and each other!
Read on to learn more about how and what we do!
What We Teach
How We Teach:
We use a variety of active learning techniques at eRYLA, including:
- Neural Networks: Our activities help build leadership neural networks by building in opportunities for struggle. One of the most complex skills we teach, Navigating Pressure & Ambiguity, also uses struggle to teach. By adding constraints and creating a conducive environment, students struggle, fail, strategize, struggle, fail, strategize, struggle, succeed. We do this a lot through gamification.
- Connections with prior experiences: Helping students connect what we are doing at RYLA with prior experiences, helps them build on something that already exists in their brains. By building on prior experiences, we are able to help them more readily access the new information in the future.
- Environmental Factors: We utilize the senses to create an environment that is stimulating to the brain and triggers the innate desire to learn. Everything we do… How we do it… When we do it… Where we do it… Is intentional. Everything is intentional because there is a “why” behind every decision.
- Metacognition: While at RYLA, we have students regularly reflect on their own learning. We teach students about their brains, how to help themselves in learning, as well as about different brain chemicals and how they can use those chemicals to become more confident, more empathetic and live a happier life.
The best practices in education use lots of great tools to help students get the most out of their learning. In addition to the Active Learning Methods and the Brain-Based Strategies, we also employ the following:
- Differentiated Learning: We create the activities in such a way that each person has personal take-aways and regardless of their backgrounds and experiences, they can learn & grow.
- Authentic Assessment: We ask students to use their skills throughout the week, while we look for their personal growth and transferability of the concepts.
- Multiple Intelligences/Multi-Modal: In addition to having a specific activity for students to explore multiple intelligences, we build into each team-based activity a variety of elements so all members of the team, regardless of their strengths/weaknesses, must help the team succeed. This goes a long way, by the end of the week, in helping students understand what they have to contribute.
- Gaming Principles: As mentioned in the Brain-Based section, we have built-in a variety of gaming principles throughout our RYLA. We particularly use the concepts that teach resiliency and persistence.
- Debriefs & Reflections: We have regular debriefs throughout the week, called Team Round Ups. These are in addition to any debriefs for specific activities. Team Round Ups are meant to be a time to help students process what they are learning, why it is important, and how to apply it when they get back home. This is done Socratically so the student does the thinking and therefore does the learning. We also have several times throughout RYLA that are specifically for personal refection. Students participate in a leadership meditation each evening, which explore intentionality helps students understand all of the small but powerful choices we all make each day. This is something many continue on their own after RYLA. On our final evening, we have a labyrinth walk as well. We own five canvas labyrinths, so we can allow students the time they need.
- Enduring Concepts: Because the vast majority of our activities are completely original content, they are built with our specific goals in mind. We feel it is important for students to experience concepts in multiple contexts so the concepts can not only become better understood, but also transferable.
- Innovation: We feel it is critical for students to learn to innovate. We encourage them to think and come up with their own ideas. We have had times when the campers got together and asked if they could do something a different way (we love that!). Mostly though, this comes from our returning youth (nearly 100 each year). They are constantly looking for ways to make things even better and more powerful.
- Relationship Building: This is the cornerstone of growth for youth. Without trust, expectations, and genuine care, no one is stepping out of their comfort zone. While students in an unfamiliar environment, such as a camp, will create a certain amount of trust in each other (youth bond quickly), it takes relationships with mentors, with the older youth and/or adults for them to be brought to the next level in their learning and leadership development. Youth need to feel (not just be told) they are welcome and cared about.
- Cultural Awareness: We work hard to mix the teams up so students get to meet others that come from a different background and who have had different experiences. This can get messy at times, but what a great learning opportunity. Occasionally, youths from other states, and even our two districts work together so that when a youth is a senior counselor or above, they may travel to the other district’s RYLA to help in their respective role. We’ve also had occasions with other youth from other states and even an out-of-state university joined us for the week. When we take something like RYLA and introduce people who are not part of its history, there is always much to learn and ways to grow.
- Student-Centered: This approach relentlessly focuses on students and their success. We do not have speakers at our RYLA. Our reason is that students have access to TED, YouTube, and plenty of other sites to see speakers. We have only our limited time with them and we are interested in building skills to help them for the lifetime. Skills are learned by practicing, reflecting, strategizing, and then doing it all over again- just like in sports or the arts. Power skills are no different. Being student-centered means the students are the focus of our attention- We (or speakers) are not the focus of their attention.