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Six months ago, with everything still uncertain, the Rotary Youth Leadership Academy (RYLA) planning team made the commitment to having an in-person gathering. Although it was not without casualties, organizers were overjoyed at its resounding success.
To make sure everyone was as safe as possible, several measures were put in place, including masking indoors, placing a nursing student was on the site, and having participants rapid tested before coming to camp. Unfortunately, three of the students tested positive and were rejected.  They have, however, been placed first in line for 2023’s RYLA.
Forty students came from across District 7040. The district stretches from Upper New York State to Baffin Island. Students attended: from Quebec, 7; New York State, 7; Eastern Ontario, 26; Nunavut, 0. As usual, there were twice as many girls as boys. Students represented a range of cultures, languages, and countries, including an exchange student from Germany. Jacob Mitchell with the help of the Rotary Club of Plattsburgh travelled the furthest taking 4 ½ hours, including navigating the Canadian border, to get to the camp.
The RKY Camp, founded by Rotary, Kiwanis, and YMCA, hence the initials, is in Parham, Ontario, one hour north of Kingston on beautiful Eagle Lake.
The goals of the RYLA program include developing the leadership skills of the participants, enhancing their ability to collaborate, and providing them with opportunities to make connections and network. Each participant is assigned to a group. Presentations by each group at the closing ceremonies on Sunday afternoon were heartwarming and inspiring.
The program was led by Maddy Pawlowski, and Paul Elsley of the Rotary Club of Kingston.  They were supported by many RYLA alumni, Rotaractors and other Rotarians.
D’Arcy Munn, another Kingston Club member, is the camp’s director. D’Arcy, his Assistant Director, Andrew Walker, and their staff led the outdoor activities, including the waterfront, provided wonderful meals and snacks, and were especially accommodating when RYLA adjusted their schedule along the way.
Fees ($250/participant) for this year’s RYLA only covered this year’s cost. This permitted many clubs to sponsor more than one student.
One of the RYLA sessions introduced the participants to other Rotary youth programs such as Rotary’s Youth Exchange Programs. Elsely said, “It was wonderful to see the kids talking to Laurie LaBrie about Interact and Sherri Agnew long after the session ended.” Still others asked if they could return, as RYLA alumni, to help with future events.
Maddy Pawlowski and Paul Elsley announced they are stepping down, as RYLA co-Chairs, however, before leaving they will be recommending to the District 7040 Executive that the RKY camp become the permanent home of RYLA in the District.