Posted on May 09, 2019
Imagine, in this interconnected time, being a high school junior that goes to a weekend gathering and knows no one – then gets teamed immediately with ten students in the same boat — and adult facilitators and alumni you’ve never seen, either.
That’s what greeted the 350 exceptional students from San Diego County who gathered for the culminating event of the Intersect calendar – the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, or RYLA. Held at majestic Idyllwild Pines, the group included a large Rotary Club of Carlsbad contingent. On the facilitator side, Joe Ramirez returned for the 7th time in 8 years, joining Rita Famulare (4th visit), Kasia Trojanowski (3rd visit) and Dave Saviage (also 3rd visit). We also sponsored six attendees: Alissa Bandemer (Carlsbad Seaside Academy), Maddie Connelly (Sage Creek), Megan Conrey (Sage Creek), Anthony Lin (Sage Creek), Samantha Low (Sage Creek) and Arthur Vieillevoye (Carlsbad High, by way of Belgium).
Walt Waggoner of the Hi-Noon club, one of the RYLA event coordinators, was effusive in his praise: “We had five great motivational speakers, and then we broke into our family groups to break down and discuss what the speeches were about,” he said. “At our closing ceremonies, you heard the phrase ‘life-changing experience’ over and over from the students — and I’m here to tell you, high school kids do not speak like that normally.”
Four of our six sponsored RYLA attendees shared a couple of their memories and takeaways from the weekend:
• Alissa Bandemer shared journal entries about her impressions of the speakers and comments that moved her, combining heartfelt impressions with action steps she can take. She also focused intently on a suggestion made to “list 100 things I want to do in my life.” Imagine if we’d done that at 17…
• Maddie Connelly, who’s looking at a future of engineering better communities, was enthralled by the Skype conversation they had with high school students in Afghanistan — a peer-to-peer experience very few outside the military have ever had. “I was amazed at how positive, optimistic and driven these girls are, even in their circumstances,” she said.
• Megan Conrey walked away full of inspiration and a desire to start acting now. “I realized that if every person in the world had one good idea, and made it a reality, we’d have 7 billion new ideas at work in the world,” she said. “I felt like we were 350 people in a room who really can change the world.”
• Arthur Vieilleroye talked about an emphasis made on learning how to break large goals into small daily activities, or mini-goals. “When I start doing that, I don’t see the little things like taking out the trash as mundane, but as small goals completed toward a bigger goal,” he said. “And also, getting out of our comfort zone is a good thing.”