Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Conference (RYLA) 2020

Rotary Youth Leadership Academy students in 2020


Students from Bedford High School’s Class of 2022 showed their commitment to active citizenship and desire for leadership development this past spring. Students applied in unprecedented numbers to the annual District 7910 Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Conference, a weekend of learning and leadership development for teens run by Rotarian volunteers, originally scheduled for June 26-28, 2020 at Fitchburg State University.

From the more than three dozen highly qualified BHS applicants, only 10 participants and 5 alternates could be selected to attend the annual event.

Primary Participants: Ja’Nya Brunson, Cynthia Li, Max Alper, Catherine Chen, Bryan Awh-Kisob, Lauren Fallon, Prakhar Gupta, Andrew Wyatt McKiernan, Kyle B. McGinn, and Olivia Evans. Alternates, representing the RYLA Class of 2022: Dylan DiGangi, Owen Goss, Leonardo Chen, Hugh Gilroy, and Sarina Oliveri Kuhnle.

Student Leaders: Group Facilitators for the Class of 2021 RYLA Participants, Hannah Hamdani, and Jack Venuti. Program Facilitator for the Class of 2020 RYLA Participants, Nicole Hebert.

The interview committee consisted of Bedford Rotarians Christine Pinney, Tom Pinney, and Diane Ryan, as well as RYLA student alumni: Program Facilitator Nicole Hebert (BHS 2020) and Group Facilitator Hannah Hamdani (BHS 2021). The team convened in late February to meet with the applicants and make their selections.  RYLANs (the affectionate nickname for students who participate in RYLA) were chosen for their demonstrated potential for leadership, good character, and commitment to future community service.  The decisions were very difficult, as there were far more qualified candidates than available slots.

Soon after the selection process concluded, COVID forced the disappointing, but necessary cancellation of this year’s RYLA conference. The selected students have been given opportunities to interact and learn over the summer, and additional activities are planned for the coming year. Students chosen to attend RYLA 2020 will have priority to attend RYLA 2021 in whatever form it takes next spring.  We are all hoping that it will be able to return to an in-person event bringing teens together from all over the region.

The Rotary Club of Bedford is proud of all of the students from the Class of 2022 who applied to RYLA this year, regardless of whether they were selected or not. Their interest signifies their desire to live the values of Rotary and to serve their communities. We sincerely hope that they will pursue these interests going forward. We are especially excited about the selected cohort below because we know their bright futures will only be enhanced by their association with RYLA. All the adversity of the last few months has shown that it takes principled leadership to get through any crisis, and the commitment of these young people to developing their skills and abilities should give all of us great hope.

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