RYLA+ is a hybrid leadership retreat, using active learning strategies, and is designed to be a for youth, by youth program. As Rotarians, we are always thinking about how to make our tomorrow’s even better by what we do today. As we look to our future, we know that we must now start getting students ready to lead in jobs that don’t yet exist. There are some things we do know though. With over 60% of the American workforce currently working remotely at least part time, it makes sense to help our students learn to lead in multiple environments. We also know that there are some specific skills employers are looking for (see curriculum section for more information). Helping students learn to lead for their future is good for them and good for our world. 

 

Leader N U was founded by a Rotarian and RYLA+ grew from RYLA Alumni. In 2020, Alumni from multiple districts got together and worked to build a program so their own RYLAs would not have to cancel. With the success of the then “eRYLA,” this group brought the program out to other districts across the country in 2021 so they too could continue to have RYLA. In doing these programs, as well as remote leadership development for corporate employees, we at LNU began to see the need for a program that is made for our new leaders of tomorrow. Taking the best of what we did in-person and the best of what we did remotely, we created RYLA+. We’ve learned a lot through this process and are excited to partner with districts ready to lean into innovation and leadership in the new normal. 

 

One of the unique features of our program is the building of an alumni pipeline. It takes a few years to get this built, but once in place, your pipeline ensures continuity and stability of your local program.

  • Year 1: Camper. Much of the curriculum outlined in the curriculum section is based on Camper Year. Concepts are introduced, practiced, reflected, debriefed and a foundation is built. These students are split into teams and activities are done, in teams, in mixed teams and in whole retreat configurations.
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  • Year 2: Trailblazer (TB). Up to half of students may be able to return the following year to continue their leadership journey with RYLA. These students are also put into teams and split their time rotating from their own (second-year camper) curriculum and learning to be a staff member by setting up and helping to facilitate activities.

  • Year 3: Junior Counselor (JC). After their Trailblazer year, students may apply to be a Junior Counselor. These students will work on a camper team learning what it takes to lead a small group or team. In addition, their curriculum will also focus on team dynamics, roles and processes. 

  • Year 4: Senior Counselor (SC). After Junior Counselor year, students start leading discussions, debriefs and focusing on the development of their campers in a team. In addition, their curriculum will focus on collaboration and conflict resolution. 

  • Year 5: Facilitator (FC). After their Senior Counselor year, students take on an elevated role within the teams. While they are an active member of the counseling team and make sure the team outcomes are reached, their additional curriculum is Situational Leadership. Facilitators work to make sure their JCs and SCs are growing and getting to the leadership place they need to be in order to move up to the next position the following year. 

  • Year 6: Mentor. After their Facilitator year, students may serve as Mentors for the Trailblazers. Because the TB teams have different schedules, working sometimes with campers, sometimes with each other and sometimes as their own team, Mentors help them learn not only what is done to lead RYLA, but why. In addition, because their role relies heavily on setting up and facilitating activities, Mentor curriculum includes resource management and navigating ambiguity.

  • Year 7: Admin. Students who are still in the program for a seventh year are generally ready to take on a larger leadership role. These roles include: Activities Coordinators, Counselor Coordinators, Special Ops (logistics and supplies), and Trailblazer Coordinators. In these roles, students (who have now generally graduated from college, actually) can help make the camp run and flow smoothly. 

  • Beyond! We encourage those who would like to continue coming back to do so as Rotaractors or Rotarians. Rotaractors and Rotarians serve as volunteer staff, which includes working with the teams, helping with general logistics, mentoring the admin staff, helping with the alumni curriculum, etc. 
  • – We want to partner with you each step of the way to make sure your local students get the most out of their experience. We also want to make sure that you and your committee are involved but not overwhelmed.
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  • – Our team relies heavily on Google Drive so we can all be on the same page, literally. When a new partner signs on, we will create a shared Google Folder. In this folder, we will put all documents, lists and elements pertaining to your RYLA so your Chairs or other designates have access to anything, anytime. Transparency is key.
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  • – We have developed a survey for all new partners so you can help us learn more about your RYLA. If you are just starting up, no problem. We can help you with this as well.
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  • – In addition to the survey, we have developed a thorough “To Do” checklist that will be available to all designated members of your committee through our shared Google Drive. Each item designates who is taking the lead, any deadlines, contact information and links for further information or resources. Within this checklist we’ve embedded additional checklists (links) for each of your committees or for items requiring multiple steps. This ensures that all items are addressed, without everyone having to comb through vast amounts of items to find theirs.
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  • – Every RYLA is unique. And should be. Your survey answers and preferences will guide us as we work with you on each step. 
  • Leader N U provides a marketing package each year as part of our partnership. This includes: 
    • – A logo/theme for the year based on the RI theme.
    • – A paragraph description of RYLA+ for your use on websites or as you are explaining the program to others.
    • – A 60 second camper recruitment video to get students excited. This is uploaded to YouTube and you can share it with clubs, schools, etc.
    • – A 60 second volunteer staff recruitment video to send to Rotarians and clubs. This is to help drum up interest and participation from Rotarians.
    • – A 60 second alumni volunteer video to get former campers excited about coming back. (Please see Pipeline Staff information.)
    • – Flyer announcing applications coming soon.
    • – Flyer with QR code linked to application for campers.
    • – Flyer with QR code with information for Rotarians.
    • – PowerPoint Deck to give to clubs about RYLA+ and how to get involved.

Leader N U provides a simple, easy way to on-board your campers, alumni staff and volunteer staff.

Applications are created, using any district fields of preference or our standard application, for easy online access through phones, tablets or computers.

Using contacts you provide, applications are automatically sent to the club chairs for easy selection and notification.

Application information is automatically populated in our shared spreadsheets so club chairs just have to let you know who they want to sponsor and do not have to worry about forwarding anything to the committee. 

Leader N U sends out an acceptance letter to selected students with the information they need for camp, as well as a registration link.

With this link, students register by creating an account for the digital portion of RYLA, have their parents sign any releases/forms using Docusign and sign up for their family orientation.

Alumni and Volunteer staff are also sent a registration link. Through their registration, they will complete Youth Protection Training, any required background checks, as well as modules on expectations and training. 

On their self-selected date, students and their families log on for a 30 minute orientation. During this time, we go over what to expect, what is expected, how to navigate the technology/website and any other relevant information. This is also a time for them to ask questions and get to know some of the Rotarians and Alumni staff.

The week before RYLA, the counseling team, with the support of LNU, calls each member of their respective team to welcome the campers and start connecting with them. This is another opportunity for students to ask questions and start getting comfortable with their new RYLA family.

  • At the completion of RYLA+, campers will have access to a district resource page. This page includes:
    • – Videos and other content they experienced during RYLA+ so they may go back and refresh their memories, if they wish.
    • – Additional information about leadership, Rotary and other areas to help them live their best lives.
    • – Pictures, video and other captures from their RYLA experience.
    • – Updates and links from the district.
  • Rotarians from the district who participated in RYLA have access as well.

Once per quarter, any student who attended an eRYLA or a RYLA+ from across the country can log in for further development.

  • – These sessions are two hours long and held over a weekend.
  • – Students will learn more about topics such as persuasion, international engagement, internships, and other college and career boosters!
  • – The programs are coordinated by our own professional staff and also serve as an opportunity for students to network with other students from across the country.
  • – Rotarians from participating districts are always welcome to join!
  • Using our learning management system, both volunteer staff and alumni staff are able to navigate through modules for training purposes.
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  • In addition to modules, which can be done on their own time at their own pace, staff members log on the weekend prior to the retreat for a staff training session. During that time, we help them navigate the online portions of RYLA+ as well as go over anything else that will be helpful to know.
  • Module training topics include: 
    • – Complete Youth Protection Training.
    • – Navigation of the online portions of RYLA (including Zoom basics and website basics).
    • – An overview of the Power Skills.
    • – Debriefing techniques.
    • – Expectations and what to expect.
    • – Activity overviews.
    • – Curriculum topics for alumni staff.
    • – Other relevant topics.
  • – Leader N U provides skilled facilitation for all of the activities, allowing volunteer and alumni staff to focus their time and energy on developing the skills in their particular teams.
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  • – Activities are introduced and moved along at a large group level, with each team having their own personalized experience of the activity.
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  • – Several activities are done with mixed teams, instead of their home team, to ensure students have an opportunity to meet and work with a variety of other students.
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  • – As your pipeline grows, we will begin training your older alumni and interested returning volunteer staff, on how to facilitate the activities.

Our research has shown that colleges and universities, as well as employers in the vast majority of fields, are looking for some specific skills in their employees, now and for the future.

We have created extensive rubrics for each of these skills and from those, outlined the outcomes for what we do. The skill areas include: 

  • – Self-Awareness and Respect for Differences: An understanding and appreciation of one’s own, as well as others’, strengths, abilities, traits, and values. Skill area includes: Values, Emotional Intelligence, Strengths, Cultural Intelligence, Confidence, Personal Processing Filters and Contributions to the Task/Team.
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  • – Verbal and Nonverbal Communication: Effectively sending and receiving messages. Skill area includes: Active Listening, Adapting Message to and Connecting with the Audience, Organizing and Crafting Messages, Giving Feedback, Proxemics (space), Oculesics (eye contact), Kinesics (body language), Vocalics/Paralanguage (voice), and Affect Displays (facial expressions). 
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  • – Critical Thinking and Decision Making: Evaluating and making connections and selections. Skill area includes: Evaluating and Reflecting, Connecting the Dots Across Contexts, Learning from Failures and Successes, Comparing and Contrasting, Weighing Options, Applying Ethics, Exploring Multiple Courses of Action, Seeking Out Different Perspectives.
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  • – Creativity and Innovation: New ways to represent, perceive or do something. Skill area includes: Being Resourceful, Combining in New Ways, Using Imagination, Pursuing New Solutions, Questioning the Conventional, Experimenting with New Ideas, Brainstorming, Discovering What is Missing.
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  • – Problem-Solving and Adaptability: Seeing an issue and resolving it. Skill area includes:  Discovering Patterns, Identifying the Scope of an Issue, Researching/Analyzing Data, Developing Criteria for Solution, Expecting Variation and Change, Staying Flexible, Identifying What is Fixed and What is Flexible, Weighing Time Frames, Expertise and Constraints, Avoiding Permanent Conclusions.
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  • – Teamwork: Effectively working with others to accomplish a task. Skill area includes:  Participating Toward Team Success, Listening to and Encouraging Others, Exhibiting Interpersonal Intelligence, Balancing the Needs of Focusing on the Task with the Needs of People, Maximizing Team Strengths to Accomplish Goals. 
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  • – Continuous Learning and Initiative: Intrinsically motivated and seeking out further knowledge or opportunities. Skill area includes: Being Curious, Learning From Failure, Taking Ownership of Further Learning, Applying Past Experiences to Current Situation, Being Resilient, Willing to Try New Things, Exhibiting Confidence, Taking Action.
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  • – Resource Management: Managing time, money, people, information, and inventory. Skill area includes:  Maximizing Timelines and Budgets, Continuously Assessing Resources and Making Modifications When Needed, Managing Information, Seeking Efficiency and Effectiveness, Using Resources Ethically.
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  • – Written Communication: Sending effective messages through written channels of communication. Skill area includes: Selecting Appropriate Written Channels, Organizing, Adapting and Editing Work, Using Credible Sources, Using Appropriate Language and Paralanguage Substitutes. 
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  • – Collaboration and Conflict Resolution: Creating a win-win with different ideas, personalities and/or strengths. Skill area includes:  Clarifying Goals and Intended Meanings, Finding Common Ground, Selecting Appropriate Strategies for Situations, Exhibiting Empathy, Gathering Input and Creating a Supportive Climate. 
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  • – Navigating Pressure and Ambiguity: Maintaining level-mindedness in the midst of confusion, time constraints and uncomfortable situations. Skill area includes: Assessing Stress Levels and Identifying Stressors in Self and Others, Being Proactive, Developing Tolerance for Risk Taking and Failure, Showing Grit, Persisting without Clear Direction.
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  • – Leadership and Influence: Leading with vision and character. Skill area includes: Accepting Responsibility, Adapting Leadership Styles, Empowering and Motivating Others, Communicating Vision, Maximizing Resources, Building Camaraderie, Accomplishing Tasks.
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Each skill area explores five different spheres of focus. Those spheres are:

  • – Task Focus: How do these tools/skills help you more effectively and efficiently accomplish tasks
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  • – Strategy/Adaptability Focus: How can you use these tools/skills to modify, consider, or add-to what you are doing to accomplish your goal?
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  • – Communication Focus: How can you use these tools/skills to best send/receive the message for the greatest mutual understanding?
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  • – People Focus: How do these tools/skills help you work more effectively with others? How do they help you better lead others?
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  • – Self Focus: How do these tools/skills help you learn more about yourself and/or become a better leader?

In addition to these skills, we want to build good citizens who are willing to make the world a better place. What better way to inspire this than to highlight Rotary. Our curriculum includes the Four Way Test, as well as one of our own activities, Rotary Warriors, which explores Rotary International’s Seven Areas of Focus.