Rotary Youth Leadership Awards
Annually, the Fayetteville Rotary Club sponsors junior and senior high school students from Cumberland County schools to attend the Rotary International District 7730 Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) Conference. RYLA is an intensive leadership experience organized by Rotary clubs and districts where high school students develop skills as a leader while having fun and making connections.
In 2023, 18 Cumberland County High school students attended the RYLA Conference at the Trinity Center in Pine Knoll Shores, N.C. The Fayetteville students joined 53 other students from Rotary District 7730, to connect with Rotary and community leaders, build communication and problem-solving skills, and learn strategies for becoming a dynamic leader in their school and community. Students also participated in a food packing service project with Rise Against Hunger.
"In a world that's ever changing at a moment's notice, we are proud to sponsor 18 students' admission to the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards program,” said Brandon Price, President of the Fayetteville Rotary. “These students learn real life skills that will enable them to become the future leaders our communities desperately need. Learning how to communicate and the ability to problem solve are underappreciated skills students are taught, along with helping them to discover strategies for becoming a dynamic leader in their school(s) and communities.”
Fayetteville students represented Cross Creek Early College High School, Cumberland International Early College, EE Smith High School, Grays Creek High School, Jack Britt High School and Massey Hill Classical High School.
“RYLA gave me the opportunity to meet several other like-minded individuals,” said Stella Martyak, a Junior at Massey Hill Classical High School and RYLA attendee. “This experience will help me greatly in the future. I learned new leadership skills that I can now bring back to my school and share with other leaders. The skills I learned will help me be a better leader and person wherever life may take me.”
Léora Desgranges, a French exchange student, was also one of the Fayetteville students who attended. Desgranges attends Jack Britt High school and is living in Fayetteville as part of the Rotary International's Exchange Student program.
“I chose to attend RYLA because as the exchange student of the District 7730, it’s another opportunity offered by Rotary,” said Desgranges. “What’s more I wanted to meet new people and to know more about leadership skills. “
The Fayetteville Rotary Club annually coordinates the selection of local students for RYLA and pays the full expense for the students to attend. Following RYLA, the students attend weekly Fayetteville Rotary meetings, and share their experience with Rotary Club members.
Mary Ledford, a Senior at Grays Creek High School and two-time RYLA participant, shared her experience at the February 23 Rotary Club meeting.
"This experience was one that has left a great impression on my leadership skills, my community awareness and my network of like-minded, service-oriented students," said Leford. "RYLA rejuvenates students who already have service-oriented minds to be inventive and brave in their endeavors in their community. "
“We are very proud of this initiative and the work done by those to make it happen,” said Price. “The Fayetteville Rotary Club has been a group of community and business leaders for more than 100 years. Supporting initiatives like RYLA ensures our club, our schools, and our communities continue to thrive with well-rounded talented leaders."