Clubs send teens to camp

A free camp is being offered just south of the border, and young Langley people between the ages of 18 and 30 are invited to apply.

While it is much like a retreat held in cabins near Mount Baker, Rotarian Midori Turner said this is no ordinary camp.

Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) is a leadership development program run by Rotary.

It is offered through a leadership camp sponsored by the 50/50 Rotary District, and the purpose is to give youth an opportunity to grow as people and to develop leadership skills that they can bring back to their community, explained Turner.

 â€œThe youth who have attended always come back to us with nothing but positives,” said Turner, who has been a member of the Rotary Club of Langley Sunrise for three years.

Abran Johnson is one Langleyite who has taken advantage of the camp, and recommends it highly for other like-minded and driven young individuals.

“I think RYLA is a great experience and young people should consider going, especially if they don’t know what they want out of life and need inspiration or some sort of guidance… the weekend was helpful in understanding who you are,” Johnson said.

She is a 22-year-old Walnut Grove youth currently studying international relations at the University of B.C. in the Okanagan. She’s in her fourth year, heading towards law school, and she attended the RYLA camp two years back.

While it didn’t change the direction she was taking in her life, Johnson knows it made a big difference.

“RYLA is unlike any other leadership camp,” she told the Langley Advance. “Like most camps the speakers were inspirational and had a lot to offer. But what set RYLA apart for me was that we were placed into groups, and these groups became your family and support throughout the weekend,” Johnson explained.“We were encouraged to look deep in ourselves in order to become better leaders,” she added.

“It was an eye opening and emotional experience as you began to ask questions about yourself and get to know yourself, while sharing with other people who are also going through the same thing. Rather than showing us how to become great leaders, RYLA asked us to find who we are in order to lead others.”

If Johnson had an opportunity to go back, she said she’d jump at the chance. But recognizing youth can only participate once obviously rules her out.

That said, she might one day go back as a camp coordinator. In the meantime, she’s grateful for all that she learned at the camp and the lifelong friendships she developed.

“It was good because there was people who found themselves just by reflecting and participating in RYLA,” Johnson said.

While participants can range pretty significantly in age, most RYLA camps focus on secondary school students, university students, or young professionals.

This year’s camp is a weekend long event being held in Deming, Wash., from April 10 to 13, and applications are currently being accepted.

Successful applicants must arrange for their own transportation to and from the camp (although many tend to carpool). Food, accommodations, and all the workshops and activities are paid for by the sponsoring Rotary Club.

Aspiring participants must be sponsored by local Rotary Clubs, and Turner said her Sunrise group is expecting to sponsor four people to attend next month’s camp, plus there are usually more opportunities for sponsorship through other local clubs, she said.

Those interested from Langley can contact Turner at 604-323-6650.

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