By Mary Hoskins

It was a bold experiment, but eRYLA exceeded our expectations. Facing a second year without camp RYLA, the District 5110 RYLA executive committee chose to contract with a Rotarian team that has developed and successfully implemented virtual RYLA experiences in several Rotary districts…Leader NU, with Bridget Markwood at the helm, has a seasoned, energetic and charismatic team of young facilitators and counselors.  They delivered!!

75 students from District 5110 were sponsored by Rotary clubs. Students were first engaged with a virtual orientation, then received individual retreat “crates” stocked with goodies, fun toys, and envelopes containing team assignments and learning materials. This was NOT “Zoom school”! Campers admitted starting the week, Wednesday evening April 28, with some skepticism – most had been in school all day. They quickly engaged with a vibrant, energetic leadership team, well-designed learning activities, and active support and encouragement.

The powerful experiences culminated for me with the final bonfire (yes, it’s possible!) on Saturday night, after a long day. In an environment of safety and trust, campers shared their deepest fears and challenges and expressed the growth and connections that RYLA made possible. To Rotarians’ delight, the RYLA magic happened, and at a time when students clearly needed it.