RYLA: Building Leaders and Changing Lives


Teenagers from across Southern Connecticut participate in a trust-building activity at the Rotary Youth leadership Awards Conference (RYLA). Photo courtesy of Justin Mejia.

Justin Mejia ’15
EE Contributor

The Interact Club at THS is inspired by Rotary International and has worked side by side with Trumbull Rotary to benefit the community. Twice a year, Rotary Youth Services hosts RYLA, which is a three-day conference where students from 65 high schools in Southern Connecticut are invited to Camp Hazen YMCA in Chester, CT.

“RYLA gave me the opportunities to grow as a person,” says Keerthi Yalamanchili, a junior at Trumbull High School, after she came back from the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Conference (RYLA).

Every year, at least two students from Interact Club have participated, and this is  foreseen to continue for years to come.

According to everyone who has ever attended this event, RYLA is “very difficult to describe in words.” The truth of the matter is that RYLA is a place where students gain new perspectives of the people and world around them.

Junior Derek Wood, of Mark T. Sheehan High School in Wallingford, CT, states, “RYLA taught me that the best way to become a leader is to keep an open mind about yourself and others.”

This conference is unique because students never expect the impact three days can make on their lives. You don’t only learn general leadership skills, in fact, RYLA boosts self- confidence and broadens your view on your own life, along with the lives of kids just like you.  No one has ever left RYLA regretting they came. In reality, every participant never wants to leave!

Senior Anthony Coss, of Notre Dame High School in West Haven, CT was the Student Director of RYLA this year.

According to Coss, “RYLA means I can do more than accept others, I can accept myself.”

As previously mentioned, RYLA is nearly impossible to describe, so you should experience it yourself. Join Interact Club next year and get involved! RYLA is certainly not the only thing to look forward to. The Interact Club does many exciting activities throughout the year, including STEP, an award-winning tutor program where the club tutors third and fourth graders.

Editor’s note: This article was written by the President of Interact Club.


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