You may be considering whether to apply for a place on the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) programme. The aim of this page is to provide you with enough information to make an informed decision without revealing everything about the course. Part of the learning comes from having to respond to unexpected situations although there is certainly nothing to worry about.
What is RYLA?
RYLA is a leadership development course. It is not a pass or fail course and you will be as successful on it as you are willing to be. There are no limits for your development. We aim to help you realise some of the leadership potential that others have seen when they selected you for it. It is not an outward bound course! Yes, a lot of the activities may take place outside but it is about using a variety of activities, both in and outdoors to develop you as an individual, as a team member and as a leader of a team in a safe and enjoyable environment.
It is a rare opportunity to experience and learn things about yourself, about working in a team but more importantly about leading and supervising other people. In the workplace it could take years before employees get to attend a similar type of course, if they ever get to attend one at all.
There are two courses that we run on consecutive weeks in the summer school or college holidays for young people who are 16 and 17 years old. They take place at a scout hostel called Hebden Hey on the outskirts of Hebden Bridge – www.hebdenhey.org.uk RYLA has been running in the Yorkshire area for more than 30 years.
We are aware that the majority of outdoor courses in the UK are run on an adventure activity basis and adopt a ‘Leadership of Youth by Youth’ approach. Although this may have some benefits, they are missing out on an important resource such as adult input and the knowledge and experiences of leadership/management in the real world of work.
The selected activities on the course are all based on elements of problem solving, communication, organisation, delegation and teamwork etc. Although the tasks are largely centred on outdoor activities which add a physical dimension to the problems you will face, it cannot be stressed enough that this is not an activity holiday!
The activity side of the course is used to highlight the problems of leadership in a practical situation and to allow each course member the opportunity to take on a leader’s role. You will then be given feedback on individual and team performances, not only by our staff, but also by other course participants and your mentors. In this way you will learn how things were from a wider perspective and by taking this learning forward it allows you to set new challenges and adapt your approach for the next task.
RYLA is an experiential learning course and uses the KOLB Learning cycle – a task/experience followed by a review, learn from this, plan using what you have learned and start the whole process again. No exams, no assessment cycle, no pass or fail.
Who Are We?
The staff on RYLA are a mixture of Rotarians (members of Rotary), professional instructors and past RYLArians. All of them have a lot of experience in leadership roles in either the public or private sector and they are all there to assist with development of your leadership skills.
Towards the end of the first day on RYLA you will be formed into groups of eight who you will then work with for the duration. Each of the groups is assigned a Rotarian ‘mentor’. Your mentor will be there to support you throughout the course, to deal with any issues that may arise within your group, and be the link between yourselves and the rest of the staff, should the need arise. They are not there to supervise you or to instruct you or to be a team leader, but to give you the benefits of their vast experience.
Your mentor will see your development in your leadership skills, over the course, and will do their best to make sure your whole group benefits from the experiences that you will all go through and provide continuity of your development through the programme. They are also there for you to lean on should you need it and they will be there to support you afterwards in the presentation you will give to your sponsoring Rotary Club.
You can of course go to any of the staff, should you need to and there are both males and females on the staff to help and assist you should the need arise, but your mentor will be the one closely available to you at all times.
Challenging and Exciting
You will be challenged during the course, you will be tired, you will feel that you are sometimes being pushed to your limits but you will enjoy it – honestly!