Students attend Rotary Club leadership camp

Eva Kaganovsky

Eva Kaganovsky
Alice Curran, Eva Kaganovsky and Michelle Kaganovsky attended RYLA, a leadership camp, with 175 other students from schools in California.

Empowered. That is exactly how I felt on my way home as I took the bus down the curvy, mountainous road after spending the weekend at the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA).

RYLA is an all-expense paid leadership camp in Blue Jay, California centered on building communication and leadership skills in an environment that emphasizes trust, respect and humanity. After writing an essay and filling out an application, juniors Michelle Kaganovsky, Alice Curran and I were given the opportunity to attend a life-changing weekend at RYLA along with 200 other students from California.

During the first day at RYLA, we were split into randomized groups of 15 students and put into situations where we depended on each others strengths. Our groups went through a circuit of different activities and games that forced us to open up, trust each other and expand our leadership and communication skills.

An activity that I will never forget was titled “Trust Fall” and it was exactly that, except an extreme version. Each camper had to stand on the edge of a medium sized rock wall and fall back, trusting that their teammates would catch them. When my turn approached, I immediately objected. Not only do I have a fear of heights, but I was afraid to trust a group of teenagers that I met only three hours ago. However, my team encouraged me and I eventually went for it. The moment I fell was the moment I learned the importance of trust and teamwork.

Through lectures and personality profiling, we learned our about our strengths but most importantly we learned that it is okay to have weaknesses. For instance I learned that I love to take on challenges and I create harmony easily, however I also learned that I am very dependent on maintaining the status quo and I need validation at times.

The next day, the RYLA Olympics were held. We were split into yet another random group of 15 students and versed other groups in activities that tested our cooperation and communication skills. We spent the night cheering on our new friends in the RYLA Idol. From magic tricks to lip synching, it was definitely a night to remember.

Saying goodbye to the campers and mentors I met as well as the peaceful mountains was the hardest part of the entire trip. I can describe the activities we accomplished and the skills I learned, but I believe it is something that every student should experience for themselves.

I was reluctant about applying because I did not believe I was a leader but in all truthfulness, every person is capable of being a leader, some just need a larger push than others. When I signed the application, I never thought one camp would change my entire outlook on myself and my future.