Rotary member Aaron Hannah, (far right), with proud parents and Camp RYLA participants flanked to his right. Front row, Juana Grado and her son Justin with back row, John, Edna and J.C. Clark.
Photo compliments of Rotary Club
By Adrian Gilmore
Two Van Horn High School seniors recently attended a leadership building camp, known simply as “Camp RYLA”, short for the Rotary Leadership Youth Award, courtesy of the local Rotary Club. Justin Grado and J.C. Clark were two of 180 students selected by a Rotary Club committee to attend the weeklong summer camp. Their selection was based on their leadership and educational promise in various areas in school activities and out.
Grado and Clark worked to improve their team building skills though educational workshops, ice-breaking activities, and value enforcing conversation in keeping with Camp RYLA’s mission statement:
“The focus of the camp is to:
•Provide an atmosphere where campers will experience learning situations to help develop sound values.
•Promote an environment providing campers with insight and understanding of themselves and others as a basis for intelligent leadership.
•Promote involvement that encourages appropriate actions based on values and ethics.
•Encourage, though cooperative activities and group dynamics, development of leadership skills for modeling by other students.”
An enthusiastic J.C. Clark told the Advocate, “Camp RYLA was definitely an interesting experience. Going into the camp, I had only one person from Van Horn going with me, Justin Grado, but the way RYLA is set up, they divide you from the people you know in your town. I had to literally make new friends on the first day. I will give RYLA some credit though– they made it so you broke the ice immediately with cabin mates. By the end of the first day, we all knew each other’s names and basic facts about each other and by the end of the second, we considered each other friends.”
Clark continued, “I think my leadership qualities were definitely improved there. The games were fun and the counselors were amazing. I absolutely loved my counselors. They were awesome people. They had committees that you would join which included jobs you could do for the week you were staying. I worked with the newspaper, meaning we woke at 5:30 and reported about the comings and goings in the camp. The way the counselors who operated the paper ran it was by saying, ‘you make the paper.’ Meaning, they showed us how it was done, and allowed us to put in what we liked. I was in charge of weather, which I enjoyed a lot. Most students changed between responsibilities during the week. I basically kept the same job because I had cell phone service, which would access the weather.”
Justin Grado added, “It was a very good learning experience. I made a lot of new friends that I’ll have for a lifetime. While there, I learned that I am not afraid of heights. I learned If I put my mind to it and I really try my hardest, I am able to conquer something that I have never done before.” He concluded, “If there are any other students who are juniors and want to participate in something that can change your life, I recommend they go to Camp RYLA.”