June 16th 2021 was a hot day. About 25 people from various parts of the state gathered at Tarleton University in Stephenville Texas to prepare for the 107 juniors and seniors from all parts of Rotary District 5790 that would be arriving the next day. It was time for RYLA 2021.

Under the guidance of course director Clint Ishmael, the staff went about their tasks. Notebooks were assembled. Shirts were sorted and folded. Backpacks were loaded for the upcoming day. A staff meal was in order and then back for the final debrief. On the morning of the 17th it was show time. RYLA 2021 began. Slowly the campers (as we call them) began to arrive. Rotarians from the clubs that sponsored the participants delivered them to Legends Hall, their home for the next three and one half days. Staff spirit was high as they were greeted and I am sure many campers were wondering what they were in for the next few days.

RYLA is on!


After an orientation meeting, the students began their RYLA experience. Over the next few days they had team building activities (and water), Jungle escape,

Shelter Box, carpet exercises (and water and snacks). The students became a family.

Together they learned about how city government works as the had a mock city council meeting.

We learned which fork, knife, and spoon to use at an etiquette dinner. Along the way there was some dancing lessons, legislative process education, and more water and snacks!

But RYLA was not finished. The families practiced “Service Above Self” by helping clear brush and trees in a local park. We made Promises and more Promises while trying to save the world, and did I mentioned we had some time for skits? And there was always time for water!.

And then it was graduation day. Sunday had arrived. Breakfast was consumed, the last morning assembly was done, and then it was time for our final task. One by one the families with their Rylarian and Rotarian counselors were recognized for all they had done. Pictures were taken, t-shirts were signed, and  tears were shed. The students that were place in groups where they did not know anyone made friendships that can last for many years. As the club Rotarians arrived to gather their students to deliver back to their respective areas GO RYLA could be heard all around. And so it was for RYLA 2021 . Truly we experienced “Rotary Making A Difference” and living “Service Above Self”.

Thanks to District 5790 for putting on this event; to the youth and adults that took the time to staff; to the clubs that sponsored the students and sponsored some of the activities at camp; and most of all to outstanding students who came in not knowing what to expect and leaving with memories and experiences that will last a lifetime.

Parting thoughts………. Make sure RYLA is part of your club plans for 2022 and…………..GOOOOOOOOO RYLA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!