By: Mackenzie McCollum, Contributing Writer
This past summer, June 18-23 and July 9-14, Josh Bowne and Laila Payne, juniors at Centralia High School(CHS), attended the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Conference(RYLA).
RYLA is a program that challenges students to perform better through the service projects they participate in regularly.
The conference was held at the University of Central Missouri. Students slept in the dorms and used the gym to come together for meetings and the activities they participated in. Both Payne and Bowne agree the people they met at the conference impacted them and caused the conference to be as great as it was. They also agreed that if given the opportunity, they would both want to attend the conference again in the future.
Payne and Bowne both heard about RYLA through Mrs. Charla Dickerson, a counselor at CHS. A few local Missouri Rotary Members chose Payne and Bowne specifically for the conference. “At the camp we did things like team building exercises, talking in small groups, working on service projects and we did a lot of togetherness things. The staff really wanted us to make connections with each other and essentially network with the people there,” said Payne.
Both students also agreed that if given the opportunity, they would want to attend the conference again. Bowne comments, “Oh for sure. It was an amazing experience.” They also agreed that one of their favorite things about the conference was meeting new people. “My favorite thing about RYLA was the people. Everyone seemed to let go of stereotypes and really opened up with everyone there. I made a lot of friends and I still keep in touch with most of them,” said Payne.
Out of all she experienced at the conference Payne said, “The most meaningful part of RYLA was the exposure to service projects and the work that goes into it. I learned how many people are out there trying their best to come up with ways that they can help others. Also all of the networking and togetherness that goes into building a service project. I had no idea how many different people it took to make a functional service project. I was dumbfounded by it. But overall I would do it all over again 100%.”
Payne also said, “I would want to recommend RYLA to the people that can compromise, but also don't have trouble sharing their thoughts and views.”
Payne and Bowne have fellow CHS students in mind they hope to encourage to attend next year.