RYLA Participant 2020

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

A high school student, from the Escuela Secundaria y Superior Rosalina C. Martínez, was sponsored by our AAUW Branch to attend the leadership weekend program of the Rotary Youth Leadership Award on February 15-17, 2020. This is her account of the weekend, and what it meant to her.

Participating in RYLA, even though it was an overwhelming experience, became more than I expected. I agreed to participate, yet I was completely clueless of what it consisted of; so far from being calm, I was scared. Therefore, I even thought of backing out, I mean; new things, new people, new place; away from any familiar face or place. It was terrifying and completely out of my comfort zone. Yet I mentally pushed forward, not missing the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

In those days, you’ll participate in a lot of different activities and challenges. You will not be able to back down (keep in mind, you aren’t alone, as your team will have your back), or know anything that will occur beforehand. Even so, It keeps your mind and body intrigued about what will happen after, and keeps you motivated for the next activity. Speeches in front of a group helped me, not only by thinking fast and coming up with what I had to express, but to keep steady, and calm my nerves so I was able to control what I was about to say. The debates were intriguing, and interesting, not only because you could put your point of view out, but could also hear different points of view and add to them, or disagree without much of a complication. Even though those two were my favorites, I enjoyed each activity because they all taught me something: the canoe riding, the spider problem, the game planning, and a few more. I was terrified about getting in a canoe for the first time in my life; the fear of falling from it was biting my confidence like a hungry stray dog, but my determination of proving I could still do it, regardless of the tremble in my hand and the screaming in my mind that I was gonna make a fool of myself, forced me to get in. And I don’t regret doing so; I even wish I will one day do it again. I even took control when we were stuck in some moments. It is not hard to trust someone, nor get out of the comfort zone; it’s trusting yourself with any obstacle, no matter the level of difficulty.

Most of the abilities I learned there will manifest in my future, one way or another, like taking the initiative, speaking out loud, giving my opinion respectfully, supporting my teammates, encouraging someone, lending a hand in a troubled moment, keeping in mind my surroundings, listening to others. So many abilities that are essential on a daily basis; yet a lot of people tend to forget. There is always a chance to practice this action of teamwork, especially when I participate in FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) and DECA (a group which prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe) which is one of the motives why the abilities I acquired from the camp are more than welcome.

I do not feel that thrilled about being a leader, yet neither a follower. I do keep things humble and in control as they come, because being a girl already is below the rank of man. Which means female leaders have to win trust from people, make themselves worthy of loyalty and recognition, and a really good reason why they should follow and prove all are in the same boat. Neither gender nor rank marks you of your worth to lead. It is not difficult, but it is challenging. Even so, the moment you control your fear, doubting, or a chain in your body that keeps you from trying, it becomes easier. This is why I enjoyed the leadership camp. It didn’t focus on the spark of leader spirit inside of boys or girls, but in both, seeking that potential in any gender, regardless of how developed it is in them. This is something I highly appreciated, since it kept us equal without judgment toward the other.

Giving this activity a chance made me meet a lot of great people: younger, same age, older. Each had their own unique persona, each being leaders one way or another, whether it was by maintaining their composure or motivating the others; whether it was by keeping the group content or relaxed. Though all were different, the sentiment that bothered us, crawled inside of us, controlling us like a chained dog, was the sentiment of doubt and fear, which gradually made us similar. Each was scared of something; either to speak and stand in front of an audience – feeling all eyes on them, as if to judge their most simple mistake – or be the first to act in something, or say something out loud, like a thought or your point of view; even to depend on someone unknown, or try something you have never done. All so different on the outside, and so alike on the inside; in the heart and sentiment. Yet even so, a reassuring smile will never be missed in our leader’s face and companions, keeping us from giving up in the most troubled of times. In the end, you’ll truly have new friends, heaven forbid a new enemy, after the experience; and luckily keep communication with them. 

I would tell [other girls] to try it. Life and time doesn’t wait for nobody, and you should never let a chance slip away, especially if it is a chance that hardly comes and means good for the person you’ll be in the future. Trying new things – no matter if uncertainty or fear are nagging at you – it keeps your spirit high, your life exciting, your mind open and your heart warm. Give it a chance to make amazing memories with how many people you can; even if you may or may not see them again. More or less, giving this a go can allow you to be more sure of what kind of person you want to be.