Saturday, May 25, 2013

Hackensack High School students attend leadership retreat

This past week was the annual Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) conference for Rotary District 7490.  RYLA is one of Rotary International's many service projects.  The RYLA program seeks to promote the ideals of Rotary International's motto "Service Above Self" while developing leadership, service ethics, and an appreciation of community in young people.

Every May, local Rotary Clubs from District 7490 (Bergen, Hudson and Passaic Counties) sponsor High School Juniors for this all-expense paid six-day conference focusing on leadership, team building, professional development, and community service ethics.  The conference was held at Indian Head Camp in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.

This year, 108 students were selected to attend including seven students from Hackensack High School.  The Hackensack Rotary Club sponsored three candidates for this scholarship opportunity.

The RYLA program is executed by college-aged students and young professionals ranging from 19 to 26, all of whom are alumni of the program.  The RYLA program for Rotary District 7490 has strong Hackensack roots boasting a number of former counselors, the program currently has three counselors who are HHS alumni including both of the program's facilitators--Katie Zoch and (myself) Steve Gelber.

Through the course of the week the RYLA candidates (RYLAteers) took part in team building exercises that challenged them to face their fears, break through barriers, build stronger teams, and ultimately bring their individual teams into a greater sense of community.

The RYLAteers also had the opportunity to hear from a diverse group of presenters.

Doug O'Brien, a Master Practitioner and Trainer of NLP, gave RYLAteers the tools to reframe their state of mind and break through their fears.  As a metaphor, the RYLAteers faced their fears, written on one side of a wooden board, to break through to their goals and dreams, written on the other side.

The RYLAteers had the opportunity to hear from Jay Jay French, the founder, manager, and a guitarists for the chart-topping heavy metal rock band Twisted Sister.  Jay Jay had an open dialogue with the RYLAteers about his journey from a rebellious drug-abusing youth to a rock idol.  Jay Jay discussed Twisted Sister's subsequent break-up, his bankruptcy, and eventual resurgence--a true example of persistence overcoming resistance.

The RYLAteers also heard from a number of Rotarians and former RYLA Facilitators about the ideals of servant leadership, Rotary's avenues of service, and initiatives of both their local Rotary clubs and Rotary International.

For pictures and information about the week you can view the RYLA 7490 facebook page by clicking here.  For a slideshow of the week, please click here. You can also see the RYLAteer produced "Newsletter" by clicking here.

Rotary is a worldwide organization of more than 1.2 million business, professional, and community leaders. Members of Rotary clubs, known as Rotarians, provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world.

There are 33,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Clubs are nonpolitical, nonreligious, and open to all cultures, races, and creeds. The Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation supported solely by voluntary contributions from Rotarians and friends of the Foundation who share its vision of a better world.

Anyone interested in joining is encouraged to contact Amanda Missey @ phone: 201-489-9454 x 119 or email:


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