South Georgia State College (SGSC) was pleased to host some of the best and brightest high school juniors and seniors on the Douglas Campus during the annual District 6920 Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) weekend June 22-25. RYLA is an outreach of Rotary International where high school juniors and seniors are selected by their local Rotary Clubs to participate in a leadership retreat. SGSC has had the privilege of hosting these outstanding high schoolers at RYLA for over 20 years.
Approximately 50 students from Rotary District 6920 participated in this year's RYLA. Student leaders from the Douglas Club were Courtney Toth, Jaylen Wynn, Malech Ryals, and Danielle Whitley.
The students began the weekend Thurs., June 22 with icebreaker activities and group photo sessions, followed by the opening banquet. This year's banquet speaker was Dr. Tracey McClelland, alumna of the former South Georgia College (SGC). Dr. McClelland continued her education after SGC at Valdosta State earning her Masters of Science in Nursing. She completed her Doctorate of Business Administration, majoring in Health Care Management and Leadership, at California Intercontinental University. She currently owns Ycarte' Health Career Center that she founded in 2006 to help develop nursing curriculum for training and is responsible for coordinating nursing workshops. Dr. McClelland is active in the community and enjoys speaking to its youth.
The students attended leadership classes Friday and Saturday, learning about the importance of customer service, the fundamentals of leadership, focusing on yourself in order to become the best leader possible, conflict resolution, and the importance and dangers of social media.
Saturday's keynote speaker was Dr. Carl McDonald, retired vice president for academic affairs at SGSC, who spoke on choosing the right words in all situations. According to McDonald, words can be interpreted in any number of ways, regardless of the intent behind the words said. He noted, "The English language is one of the hardest to learn as words and phrases can have multiple different meanings, so we must always be as clear and concise as possible."
Sunday morning's speaker was Andrea Giggetts, owner of Giggetts and Associates, a human resources and training company. Giggetts spoke on the importance of customer service, how to roll with the punches, and how to always keep your head up in order to be your best self. "Stop making people a priority in your life when they're making you an option in theirs," she said.
RYLA participants leave after the three-day event with friendships that last a lifetime and a sense of what it takes to be leaders in their communities. After spending the weekend at RYLA under the teaching of great instructors from around the State, the students are well-prepared to take on leadership roles at their high schools, jobs, churches, and more.
RYLA is an experience that these students will take with them wherever they go. Friendships and leadership skills help join these students with a common interest. Even though they started as strangers, the number of hugs and tears as students departed Sunday indicates this group at RYLA 2017 grew into a family.
For more information on Rotary Club International, please contact your local Rotary Club or visit www.rotary.org.
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