By John R. Schirmer
Two Nashville High School sophomores who recently attended the RYLA camp at Ferndale told about their experiences at the April 11 meeting of the Nashville Rotary Club.
Maddie Pinkerton and Maya Fant were delegates to RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awakening) April 5-8 and were sponsored by the Nashville Rotary chapter. Local president Carol Murray drove them to and from the camp.
“It was nerve racking,” Fant said of the camp. “We didn’t know anybody. We were in different groups.”
They soon realized that RYLA is a “family group. It’s really nice. We all related well to each other,” Pinkerton said. “There’s a lot going on in the family group. Everything came together really well. We had two counselors who were so fun.”
RYLA included “a lot of different personalities, some to lead and some to work behind the scenes,” Fant said.
One of the speakers,
dubbed “Dr. Bowtie” by the campers, told the teens that “leadership is not always the person at the front. It can be the ones working. Step out. Take charge.”
Rainy weather changed some of the camp’s activities. Fant said rain on canoe day forced the group to stay in. “We did inside games,” including a card game with random tasks written on the cards. Fant “had to sing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ loudly. I didn’t want to do it, but I did.”
Pinkerton said the games and other activities helped the students to “trust everybody there.”
The rock wall was a big test for Fant. “I’m terrified of heights. We learned communications, to be clear and work together,” she said.
RYLA included a Ropes Course with zipline and obstacles. “We had to climb a ladder and go across tight ropes with a harness,” Pinkerton said. “The first day, I didn’t know anybody. I wasn’t with Maya and had to get somebody else for a partner. The girl behind me coached me through it.”
Fant said the instructors emphasized to “never leave a person behind. We couldn’t get more than 5 feet away. We were attached and slowed down to help each other.”
Another RYLA activity was a talent show. “I don’t have any talent,” Fant said. “My group did a ‘High School Musical’ song and dance.”
Pinkerton’s group performed “All the Single Ladies” and featured “the guys dancing,” she said.
Fant said the camp “boosted my confidence. I learned about different people. It was a lot of fun [and] small. We got to know everybody and became one big family. It helped me come out of my shell.”
Pinkerton thanked the local Rotarians “for letting us go.”
On the way back to Nashville, Murray talked to Fant and Pinkerton about Interact, a high school version of Rotary. “They already have ideas for an Interact backpack,” Murray said.
Fant said her church youth group recently took a mission trip to Arlington, Texas, where one of the churches “had backpacks filled with food. Kids came and got the food on weekends when they didn’t have any at home.”