History of the RYLA Northwest
A Brief History of the RYLA Northwest Program
dThe first RYLA program in the U.S. began as a conversation between Lakewood Rotarian Clayton Peterson and his daughter, Pam. 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. Combining 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 continued 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 District 3450.
RYLA Northwest 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.
RYLA Northwest 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.