I just got home from a RYLA camp near Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. The 5 day camp (or 5 and a half to be more accurate). It was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.

Let me backtrack a bit and tell the uninitiated exactly what RYLA is. RYLA stands for Rotary Youth Leadership Award. Participants are selected by Rotary members or employers to attend. The age range of the people who are chosen every year are aged from 18 to 28. It takes place around different places across New South Wales, moving every three years. This year, it was just outside Wagga Wagga. The aims of the camp is to provide leadership and work skills and knowledge to young people.

I cannot overemphasise how amazing it was, even though I was extremely reluctant at the start. I loved the speakers, especially Witto and Jeremy from Wagga radio station 93.1 Star FM. I didn’t know how much work went on behind the scenes on radio. It’s an on – call, 24/7 hour job pretty much. We did a performance for Rotary members. We went to Kapooka (an Army base just outside Wagga Wagga). I now have a greater respect for service men and women. A female intelligence officer was particularly informative and won the respect of all the RYLA participants, including me. I think that, and other things, will affect the way I view ANZAC Day this year.

For the first time in years, I got involved in acting again! The team I was in (we were organised into committees), was responsible for putting together an act to perform in front of Rotarians. It was fun, even though we only had two or so days to put it together!

Most people, including myself, took a while to warm up to the events that were going to take place. I regret my attitude at the start. Wednesday onwards was when I started getting my act together.

One of the best things to come out of RYLA is the friendships I made. I was with the best group of people you could ask for. There was so much respect friendship and teamwork it was incredible! We were all in it together. The friendships will last forever, and I for one, will always treasure every one of them.

Now, I’m revved up, ready to go! It’s back down to business! Back to reality again. I’m more determined to reach my goals. I also have much more confidence. RYLA is a big reason for that.

Last point. Just want to say that if you’re between the ages of 18 and 28 and are asked to attend RYLA, my advice is go. Yes, it’ll probably be daunting at the start, but the experiences are worth it. If you allow it, it will be a time of personal growth. Just go with it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!