Camp RYLA transforms student leaders


Photo by Photo courtesy of Joanne Laird

Augustina Hidalgo of Argentina shares with her ohana what she thinks their nugget means during the 2015 Camp RYLA at the YMCA Camp Keʻanae this weekend, January 23-25.

Over 60 Maui students attended the 14th annual Camp RYLA sponsored by the Rotary Clubs of Maui, January 23-25, at the YMCA Camp Keʻanae.

“Camp RYLA was a fabulous opportunity for all of the students who attended to expand our networks and become better leaders,” KSM sophomore Sky Chun-Matsukawa said.

Though it rained for almost the entire duration of the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards camp, that didn’t stop campers from having fun indoors and out.

At Camp RYLA, campers are put into “ohanas,” or groups, that have two to three senior facilitators.

This was the first year that the camp was primarily student run.

“We made the decision last year to increase the number of student facilitators and decrease the number of adult facilitators so that the students had a chance to teach and be the role models,” said Joanne Laird, Rotary Youth Service Chair for District 5000. “It is the most powerful thing I have seen in my 8 years of doing Camp RYLA.”

Three of the 27 student facilitators were from KS Maui: seniors Sarah Reyes, Brandy Takiguchi and myself.

“It was really cool to be a part of the first student-run RYLA,” Reyes said. “It made me more confident as a leader and allowed me to grow into my leadership positions.”

The purpose of Camp RYLA is to train future leaders and offer the skills and tools to make a difference in the world.

On the first night, campers, as well as facilitators, participated in ice breakers to get to know one another. This allowed campers to switch out of their “ohanas” to meet other people. On top of that, each group performed a skit that correlated to one of the 15 Nuggets of Leadership, which are leadership rules to live by.

Among these rules are things such as “trust is a must” and “group thinking is better than individual thinking.” Campers took these leadership nuggets and incorporated them into activities over the entire weekend.

On Saturday, the students were divided into two large groups to do community service at two different loʻi kalo, or taro patches. The reason for this was because at last year’s camp, students said that they would have enjoyed more community service.

My group was taken to Aunty Gladys Kanoa’s patches in Keʻanae. “Aunty Gladys” told the group about the loʻi, what they would be doing, and a few safety precautions.

Everyone had to wear socks or shoes in the loʻi so that they wouldn’t cut their feet on the invasive snails; however, this led to a few problems. A few students lost their socks in the mud, and one camper, Jaccie Hisashima from King Kekaulike High School, lost her entire shoe.

“I really liked those shoes,” Hisashima said.

While at the loʻi, students pulled weeds and stomped on the mud to make it easier to plant in, but, of course, it’s not a day at the loʻi without a mud fight, too.

Once everyone was showered and back at the YMCA, it was back to team-building exercises indoors and out.

Inside, students learned about the 4-Way Test; a test that all Rotarians judge their actions by. The 4-Way Test states: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? And, will it be beneficial to all concerned?

The 4-Way Test can be applied to all situations to help one make the right decisions.

While outside, campers played soccer and ultimate Frisbee and participated in leadership activities that involved effective communication.

That night, campers got into groups and talked about their “sparks.” Facilitators explained that a spark is something one is passionate about and wants to do something about to make a difference.

Once everyone shared their sparks, they wrote them down on a pieces of paper and put them on the “spark wall.”

The group also got to watch a performance by aerial dancer Lexi Justus, the daughter of the YMCA Camp Keʻanae owners.

“It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen,” Takiguchi said, “and she’s only 13!”

On Sunday there was a Leadership Speed Dating activity where Rotarians from the community came to share their experiences and give advice to the future leaders, the campers.

“My favorite part was meeting the various RYLA club members and asking them questions relating to their successes,” Chun-Matsukawa said. “They are living proof that we can and will make it.”

After that, each attendee was given a certificate and a RYLA pin in a graduation ceremony.

“Go out and make a difference. Take the skills, take everything, and go change somebody’s life,” Laird said.