PUHS students Russell Sherman and Hannah Woodard were chosen to attend the Rotary Youth Leadership Award Camp. They were sponsored by the Mountain Empire Rotary Club. Photo by Anne McChesney

The Mountain Empire Rotary Club sponsored two PUHS students to attend the prestigious Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) Camp in the Prescott mountains over the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend. Junior Hannah Woodard and senior Russell Sherman spent their four-day holiday weekend at an intensive training program designed to build, strengthen, and exercise leadership skills, self-confidence, and character. 

Nearly 100 high school students came together from communities from across Southern Arizona, joined by Rotary Exchange students from other countries. The students were sponsored by their local Rotary Clubs. RYLA was organized and officially adopted by Rotary International in 1971 and has since proven to be one of the most sought after and highly recognized leadership training programs of its kind. 

The students learn to step outside personal comfort zones, face fears and rise to physical challenges, learn to work with others from diverse backgrounds to solve problems and achieve common goals, gain insight into personal leadership styles, strengths, and challenges, and have an opportunity to practice leadership skills in a team setting, while strengthening skills in communication and problem-solving, and building new friendships with peers from across southern Arizona. 

Woodard reported that the night before departure she wanted to back out, dreading spending a long weekend with strangers. Luckily, she called her friend Coco Whitcoe, a former PUHS/RYLA graduate, who convinced her that she would love the experience and that it would make a difference in her life. Woodard commented that it was truly a remarkable experience she would not have otherwise. 

Sherman first attended RYLA 2 years ago, and this year was selected to be a RYLA Junior Counselor. He was anxious to share this unique experience with another PUHS student. 

After his first RYLA experience, Sherman was selected to attend the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership (HOBY) workshop in Chicago, a further example of how Rotary provides opportunities for students. 

The Mountain Empire Rotary Club strives to strengthen and provide opportunities for our local youth. Watch their eyes light up when they talk about their Rotary experiences. We invite you to join us in being People of Action, Making a Difference! Contact Susan Scott, 520-455-4713, susanscott15@msn.com