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The Student News Site of Kilgore High School

The Mirror

The Student News Site of Kilgore High School

The Mirror

The Student News Site of Kilgore High School

The Mirror

RYLA Adventures:

Empowering Youth to be Stronger Leaders
Rotary+Club+Meeting+%E2%80%A2+Juniors+Keelie+Roper%2C+Leslie+Smith%2C+Juan+Cardozo%2C+Anthony+Aguilar%2C+and+Klair+Carpenter+who+were+sent+by+the+Kilgore+Rotary+Club+to+RYLA.+They+spoke+at+a+Rotary+meeting+on+Feb.+14+to+tell+club+members+about+what+they+learned+at+RYLA.+Photo+courtesy+of+Tom+Sartor.
Rotary Club Meeting • Juniors Keelie Roper, Leslie Smith, Juan Cardozo, Anthony Aguilar, and Klair Carpenter who were sent by the Kilgore Rotary Club to RYLA. They spoke at a Rotary meeting on Feb. 14 to tell club members about what they learned at RYLA. Photo courtesy of Tom Sartor.

The Rotary Club is an international club with groups in almost every country in the world. They put on a camp called RYLA which stands for Rotary Youth Leadership Awards.
Juniors get a chance to sign up and get interviewed by Rotarians, who then pick the students who stick out to them as leaders the most. The juniors have to work with their teams to overcome different obstacles that require them to speak up and help lead their team to success.
The juniors who were picked were Juan Cardozo and Leslie Smith. They were both put in different groups with nine other juniors from different parts of northeast Texas.
Each of them had to face challenges that included teamwork, problem solving, integrity, etc. Every challenge, or “element” as they say at RYLA, has a purpose. They all involve collaboration and support from the team.
“We went from having to work with complete strangers to working with people we knew and trusted within the first few hours of being there,” Smith said. “It was a really fun experience to be able to meet new people and make a team that we were proud of even though we had just met.”
On the first night after every team was formed, the RYLA campers slowly started to get to know and trust each other. Trusting each other goes a long way in working together and completing each “element” at RYLA.
“I met people who at first I thought were complete strangers, and they were, but I grew to respect, care for them as time went on, have fun with them, and make an everlasting bond with these people,” Cardozo said.
Smith had the honor of turning 17 while she was there. She
got a happy birthday from just about everyone at the camp. The atmosphere there felt like they had known each other for years.
“Even though the second day we were there was my birthday, being at RYLA made it so much more special,” Smith said. “Everyone there was so nice and made me feel at home.”
RYLA gives everyone a chance to speak up. They all did something called a consensus where everyone would hold their hands up if they agreed and down if they didn’t.
If someone didn’t agree with whatever was said, everyone would talk about it and consider more ideas. With everyone being on the same page, it helps in being more successful with the element.
“We were an unbreakable team, each one of us had a role, even if you thought you wouldn’t be much
help, the way RYLA is designed, you feel needed and important,” Cardozo said. “No one is left behind, and your voice is always heard, no matter how soft you say it, it will be heard and thought on.”
The skills they learned helped them change as people. While learning how to work with others, they also learned how to be better at facing challenges.
“RYLA taught me the significance of strength and adaptability when facing challenges,” Smith said. “The different elements pushed me out of my comfort zone, allowing me to discover my strengths and capabilities while overcoming obstacles with determination and patience.”
Each camper had to pick a fake RYLA name they went by for the weekend. Smith’s was “Lettuce” because she likes green and Cardozo’s was “Stone” because stones are durable and he wanted to be known as a solid leader.
“The names helped everyone know more about who they are,” Cardozo said. “One of the people in my group couldn’t find out what to name himself, so the leader made him list things about himself, and
it helped us know more about him and who we were working with.”
Applications for RYLA 2025 will be available in the fall to junior students of KHS.

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