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.

The RYLA Northwest Program maintains the following objectives for the RYLA program:

  • To demonstrate Rotary’s respect and concern for youth.
  • To publicly recognize and nurture the high qualities of the many young people who are rendering service to their communities as youth leaders.
  • To stimulate and cultivate leadership potential in youth.
  • To provide meaningful leadership training experience for youth, through programs such as physical & mental challenges, discussions, and guest speakers.
  • To give back to its communities, by providing training for an elite group of tomorrow’s leaders.

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

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 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 students 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.

RYLA During the Pandemic

In July 2020, we hosted a five-day virtual program with the Rotaract Club of Leadership & Service in District 7490 (Northern New Jersey), based on their RYLA University program.

In February 2021, the RYLA Northwest Committee of Districts 5020 and 5030 (Western Washington and Vancouver Island, BC) joined Camp ROYAL (District 5230) (Central California) to present a virtual conference for high school juniors and seniors, RYLA Ascend. Click on the 2021 Virtual RYLA Ascend Rotarian Guide to learn more.

After the Pandemic

Since 2022, the RYLA Northwest program has been held at YMCA Camp Colman. It is a near-peer facilitated, small group-based program with a challenge-by-choice curriculum.

Speakers are selected to represent a wide variety of leadership backgrounds. They bring a myriad of experiences, formats and styles to their presentations which allow the participants to see a variety of leadership styles.

The RYLA program 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.