What is RYLA?

RYLA (the Rotary Youth Leadership Award conference) is an intensive leadership experience organized by Rotary clubs and districts where you develop your skills as a leader while having fun and making connections.


What is RYLA Northwest?

RYLA Northwest is a project of Rotary Districts 5020 and 5030. Each year, students from western Washington, U.S.A, and Vancouver Island, B.C., gather at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA to participate in this rewarding 4-day leadership conference.



A Brief History of the RYLA Northwest Program

The first RYLA program in the U.S. began as a conversation between Rotarian Clayton Peterson and Pam his daughter.  She had just returned from a one year Rotary Exchange program in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia in 1967. While she was there, the local Rotary club hosting her sent her to a week long (RYLA) leadership training program.  Upon returning to the U.S., Pam spoke highly of this experience to her father who decided to correspond with the Australians in charge of the program.  After much investigation and discussion, the first RYLA was held on the campus of Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) in 1969.

This RYLA program has always provided high school juniors and seniors with the opportunity to experience a wide range of leaders and leadership styles. Participants were always chosen by and hosted by their local rotary clubs. Each club created its’ own process but was encouraged to consider students who have demonstrated leadership qualities and abilities in their respective high schools.

Originally, students came from parts of western British Columbia, Canada; Alaska and western Washington in the United States. Today, students come from Rotary District 5020 consisting of Vancouver Island and parts of western Washington and Rotary District 5030 consisting of King and Snohomish Counties in Washington State. Historically combining the Canadian students and American students has added a critical international flavor to this RYLA program.

Speakers have always represented a wide variety of leadership backgrounds and they have often donated their valuable time and experience.  Many of the speakers have been participating in this program for some years.  They bring a myriad of experiences, formats and styles to their presentations which allow the participants to see a variety of leadership styles.

PLU students continue serving as counselors and provide directions throughout the three and one half days.  The RYLA program at PLU endeavors to help participants learn about leadership through interactive programs and experiences that can provide a positive frame work for the rest of their lives.

To learn more about the origins of RYLA, visit the District 3450 Page.