Posted by Michael-jon Pease on Apr 24, 2018

Today’s meeting was our annual gathering with the energetic high school leaders who have been at Camp RYLA all weekend. The room was abuzz with energy between the presentations of the “Ryalrians” and the hotel crew rushing to set up more tables – 24 in all – to get everyone seated. A great turn out!

President Jerry Faletti called the meeting to order at 12:15 p.m.

Fatima Cole (RYLA) led the National Anthem with Bob Jones on the keyboard.

Bonnie Taylor delivered the inspirational minute.

Our RYLA emcees for the afternoon were Bennet Oelkers and Jillian Seeger, who were naturals at the podium. They introduced guests and visiting Rotarians.

Many of their fellow Rylarians were in fashion mode, from fashionable skirts, to bow ties, suits and even a few pork pie hats. Ah youth!

Today’s greeters were Lloyd Stern and Cindy Shiely, both from US Bank. It was nice to see Sherry Howe, Intercontinental St Paul Riverfont, back at the registration table assisting Jodi for this big meeting.

Michael-jon Pease, Park Square Theatre, was your faithful scribe.

Next week’s program will be Art Rolnick, former Mpls Federal Reserve researcher, presenting on early childhood development and the Governor’s proposal to fund pre-school education.

Jason Dekeuster, Northern Prairie Financial, introduced our program, delivered by the team leaders from each of the RYLA camper teams.
Each team made itself known by shouting their team cheer and explaining their nickname/tagline, such as the Purple (Reign) Team and the Blue Team Care Bears (stuffed with love, respect and teamwork!) and the Lemon Aces. They shared memories of grilled cheese and tomato soup, daring team building on the High Ropes course, exercises like communicating while blindfolded and many thought of “What did I get myself into?” In the end, introverts were drawn out, safe space was created for sharing each other’s stories, and the leadership exercises turned strangers into creative, high functioning teams.
Some of the big moments from Camp included:
RYLA Action Groups
This component was developed two years to connect the campers to identify issues in the broader community and inspire both group and personal action to address those issues. This exercise puts the idea of Rotary service into the campers heads and hearts.
This year’s action groups were built around Racism, Bullying and Mental Health (they were taking on the small matters of life!). Each team had to work together to identify the causes of their issue, and short- and long-term actions they could take to address the issue. Each group then presented to the whole camp what they came up with.
The group working on Mental Health shared with our club that one of the causes of misunderstanding and prejudice they identified was the way actual diagnoses have crept into everyday life, such as “that’s so OCD.” Turning mental health diagnoses into slang minimizes and stigmatizes the actual conditions and those who suffer from them. One of their short-term actions was for each camper to learn the actual definitions of the conditions they treat as slang expressions to gain greater understanding and empathy. A long-term action was for each camper to stop their friends and family when they use a diagnosis as slang or a slur and tell them why speaking that way is hurtful.
The Racism Action Group shared their definition of racial equity with the camp, as well as exploring the difference between cultural appreciation and appropriation, which led to great discussions about how to identify and address common issues that create a lack of equity.
The Bullying Action Group identified that bullies are often seeking attention and/or power in a group dynamic. They shared short-term ways to be an upstander (rather than a silent bystander) when bullying occurs and long-term ways to help both the bully and the victim find they help they need.
The project had the teams in charge of solving big problems at a fictional high school – from the budget to behavior. While there was more than one “meltdown” at the scope and difficulty of this project, it was a true test of leadership and the teams emerged victorious after their almost sleepless night of trying to get their projects done.
A common theme through all the projects that came through loud and clear on this one was “one of us is not as smart as all of us.”
Feed My Starving Children
The annual RYLA packing event helped turn “disorganized teens into food packing machines.” The campers packed 47,450 meals and were visibly proud that their efforts would feed so many children all year long in Columbia. Connecting them to international service is a key Rotary goal of the camp.
At the close of the program, 11-year RYLA volunteer Jason DeKeuster and his trust comrade in arms, Brianna Vujovich received special awards and applause from the Ryalrians. Jason recognized the Rotary volunteers, adult and junior counselors. He also got a strong show of hands from campers interested in returning next year as junior counselors.
It takes a village and our Rotary Club can be proud of the village of emerging leaders we help create year after year at RYLA.
President Faletti closed the meeting with the recitation of the Four Way Test.
Respectfully submitted,
Michael-jon Pease, Park Square Theatre