It was a full house at Winnfield Rotary Club’s meeting on August 24, 2022, when the seven Winnfield Senior High School students who attended the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Camp at the end of June 2022 came to visit along with one of their teachers, Dr. Wiley Cole, and spoke about their experience at camp. The speakers included Olivia Busha, Daisy Guerrero, Bailey Lenard, Marvanesha Lewis, Rianna Mafnas, Allison Phelps, and Chloe Whisonant.
Dr. Cole, formerly the principal of Martin High School and of Coushatta High School, as well as Superintendent of Schools of Red River Parish, is currently a teacher of English at WSHS, and assisted the Winnfield Rotary Club in identifying students qualified to and interested in attending the leadership camp for local youth. Bob Holeman, Rotarian of the day, invited the RYLA alumni to speak and moderated the students’ talk to the Rotary members.
RYLA camp is organized and produced by Rotary District 6190, which covers the northeast corner of Louisiana and includes the Winnfield Rotary club in its district. The week-long camp, one of the few summer camps available for high school students, is held at the Outdoor Wilderness Learning [OWL] Center, owned by the Louisiana United Methodist Children’s Home and located out from Dubach, Louisiana. It covers 800 acres of forested and pasture land, with dormitory and cabin accommodations, meeting, kitchen and dining facilities, equestrian facilities, a high challenge course, a low challenge course, a maze, rock wall, water sports, and many other activities designed for team building and leadership training, and other therapeutic and youth development programs.
According to the students attending RYLA camp, some of whom have attended other leadership training courses, RYLA camp was one of the very best, most challenging and most enjoyable leadership training camps ever!
Among the highlights mentioned by the various speakers were the activities which fostered bonding and team work among the members of the several groups, learning about different forms and ways of communication, learning to speak in front of strangers, the wide range of speakers, including a state legislator, who covered a wide range of topics, the opportunities provided for personal growth, making new friends and learning to get outside their comfort zones.
Some of the girls commented on activities which challenged them to confront their fear of heights and their fear of communicating with unknown people. The campers were busy from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and after every day, so the week went by quickly, they got lots of exercise, and the food was great. Everyone recommended attending RYLA camp to other students coming up in school.
The students related a variety of plans and aspirations for the future, such as becoming an agricultural educator, a labor and delivery nurse, a food scientist, a physical therapist in sports medicine, an aviator and an attorney with plans to become the president of the United States.
At the conclusion of this lively program, the meeting was adjourned with the Rotary motto, “Service above self!”