A group of local students recently participated in the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Conference in Pine Knolls Shores and returned as better leaders.
The purpose of the event held at the end of January is to encourage leadership and to give students a chance to interact with other young leaders from eastern North Carolina. Juniors throughout Sampson County were invited through the local Rotary International groups. The participants were selected because of their interest in community organizations and activities. Other aspects included team building, personal growth and development.
“RYLA really taught and prepared me for the future by showing me how to have better leadership skills, and it improved my approach and conversations with adults, among other useful things,” said student participant Adam Johnson.
One of the favorite speakers included Dexter “Loveboat” Williams, a motivational speaker and basketball performer. Williams toured with the Harlem Legends, which includes members of the Harlem Globetrotters.
“He was very humorous and got his points across well,” Johnson said in regard to the inspirational speech. “It was a very enjoyable experience.”
Emily Sutton, a student attending Hobbton High School, said RYLA was a rewarding experience in many ways. One of her experiences included participation in Stop Hunger Now, an organization based in Raleigh. Since it was created in 1998, more than 200 million meals have been delivered to 73 countries.
“RYLA was a rewarding experience in many ways,” Sutton said.”Participating in the Stop Hunger Now project reminded me of how fortunate we are to live in America. I would like to the thank the Rotarians for sponsoring this opportunity.”
Lisa Turlington, local RYLA Chairman, said Rotary is proud to offer the opportunity for students to grow as leaders and as citizens. Turlington said the trip was a success because of the work of Rotary members and Ford of Clinton, who provided transportation.
“Our delegates met young men and women from across eastern North Carolina and spent the weekend in a challenging program of discussions, inspirational addresses, leadership training and social activities,” Turlington said. “The weekend is designed to enhance personal development, leadership skills and good citizenship. It is amazing to hear the students after the conference as they share the stories of the experience.”
During the trip, Turlington said the students bonded with each other, although they attended different schools. Candy Taylor, president of the Clinton Rotary Club, said the students were a little curious about the event. But when they returned, Taylor said the students learned about diversity, different culture and other social issues.
“They learned about getting along with different types of people and just about Rotary in general,” Taylor said.
Dr. Paul Hutchins, president of Sampson Community College and a member of the Clinton-Sampson Rotary Club, added that he was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview the students who attended.
“I was impressed,” Hutchins said. “It kind of helps to restore your philosophy or belief in young people. They’re focused, they’re energetic, they’re positive and they’re wanting to do things to put themselves to be successful in life.”
Hutchins hopes it’s something the leadership program provides for them.
“It’s kind of like a springboard to success,” he said.
Also, he hopes the program helps to prepare the students to become better leaders in their school and throughout the community.
“We need young people preparing to be leaders for tomorrow,” Hutchins said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.