As one of its community outreach goals, the Muscatine Rotary Club (MRC) helps local youth take advantage of opportunities that can help them grow into leaders. As part of this goal, the MRC sends several rising high school juniors and seniors to the Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) each summer. At the MRC’s meeting on Monday, September 9th this year’s three attendees, Brian Prussman, Janelle Tapia, and Dalani Weber, spoke about their experiences and how they benefited them.
For Prussman, a senior who plans to attend Grinnell College, and double major in French and Spanish Education, RYLA helped him learn about how effective leaders communicate. Specifically, through team building activities and small group discussions, he realized the value of communicating effectively with different personality types, the importance of sharing your thoughts and feelings with others, and that failing at one endeavor does not make you a failure.
Prussman also enjoyed the opportunity to network with other up and coming leaders, making many friends in the process. “We had a blast, and I’m definitely close friends with all of [my group members]. . . . We always contact each other about important events in our lives,” he shared.
Tapia shared that while much of what she learned mirrored Prussman’s observations, she also discovered the value of focusing on the here and now and her passion for leading others. During the conference, Tapia revealed participants could not use their phones and that conference staff had covered all the clocks, using unique measures of time to let groups know how long they had for each activity. This encouraged them to truly focus on the task at hand and not worry about the past or future. Tapia felt that this helped her truly engage with the activities and get to know her group mates better.
She elaborated that RYLA, “really teaches you to live in the moment, which was the biggest takeaway for me. . . . I left wanting more, a lot more. . . . I wish to go back as a counselor and be what Benton [my counselor] was to me and we all were to each other.” Tapia also hopes these skills will help her when she attends either Iowa State or Grinnell next year and pursues a career as an elementary school social worker.
Finally, Weber discussed how doing many team building exercises with her group helped her get a better feel for how leaders need to know when to take charge, but also when to allow others to take a main role. She explained, “We learned important lessons about working in a group and when to take a step back and when to step up and speak up.” An aspiring business major, Weber believes these skills will help her in her future career and that they already help her in school and extracurricular activities. “[RYLA] was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and I think people can tell it’s made a difference on me and how I act around others,” she said.