RYLA 2011

This year we  had 13 juniors from San Clement High School attend the Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) camp.  We also had one of last year’s SC students, Brennan Clinebell, return as one of the alumni who are in charge of planning and running this year’s camp.

One of the highlights for Rotarians every year is to get a visit from the RYLA kids in the weeks after their return. It is an inspirational meeting filled with teenagers opening up about the changes that the experience had on them both in the short term from 1st time attendees, and in the long term, from alumni who return during their senior year to serve as camp counselors. Year after year we get to see once introverted or clique-ish high school juniors gush about how their perspective has changed and how they are more filled with understanding and compassion for others as a result. This year was no different and included the following activities.

The students were driven to the bus in Orange where they were assigned to a family.  This year the families were categorized by countries.  Upon arriving at the camp in Idyllwild, the buses were met with loud music, beach balls being thrown at the buses, and many shouting alumni and adult volunteers.  The first day was filled with “ice-breaker” games, a talent show, a campfire, and a speaker who shared her experience of her seven-year battle with cancer.


Saturday was spent at Boojum, a high-adventure ropes course, where students were physically and mentally challenged.  Some of the challenges were as follows:  Leap of Faith; Pipe Dream; Spider Web, plus more.  At night there was another speaker and a dance for the students to let off steam.


Sunday, the closing morning had another excellent speaker and a wrap-up session that included some very heart-felt stories as to how RYLA impacted some of the students.


For more info visit http://ryla5320.org/

San Clemente Rotary Vocational Service

As one of the main “Avenues of Service”  in Rotary, vocational service is an opportunity for Rotarians to use their skills both professionally and personally to mentor and support youth in the community. The San Clemente Rotary Club has a number of ongoing and recuring projects in vocational service; here are just a few.


RYLA stands for Rotary Youth Leadership Awards and is Rotary’s leadership training program for young people. RYLA participants can be ages 14-18. San Clemente Rotary sends between 6-9 local high school students to RYLA camp in Idyllwild once a year. This camp is made up of all the participants from district 5320 and is an intensive weekend of character building.

RYLA emphasizes leadership, citizenship, and personal growth, and aims to

  • Demonstrate Rotary’s respect and concern for youth
  • Provide an effective training experience for selected youth and potential leaders
  • Encourage leadership of youth by youth
  • Recognize publicly young people who are rendering service to their communities

Ask any RYLA participant and they will tell you what a transformative experience it is for them.

Character Counts

Although not a program specific to Rotary, Character Counts is a program we support and fund in San Clemente because it meets similar goals to those in vocational service. Based on the Six Pillars of Character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship, Character Counts is an ongoing curriculum in the schools and community that culminates in a Jamboree celebration of good character put on by the the community.

Student of the Month

Every month during the school year we recognize, with and award and a stipend, one or more of San Clemente’s best and brightest students. Recognition is not simply reserved for straight A’s in the classroom but for service and exemplary leadership and character.

Rotary Scholarships

In addition to small stipends given to students of the month, San Clemente Rotary has a fund set up for the sole purpose of providing college scholarship funds to graduating seniors as a way of both rewarding them for their hard work, and encouraging them in their further academic pursuits.

Vocal Competition and Speech Contest

Rewarding character and leadership in our youth means recognizing and supporting them in a wide range of their talents and pursuits.  This can be experienced by attending our annual vocal competition or speech contest. Here local youth are encouraged to share their talents and receive positive praise for their efforts. In addition, winners of each competition are sent on to the district level to compete for scholarships and other recognition.

Annual Wrestling Tournament

You may wonder how this found its way into vocational service? This is an event that has its roots in the San Clemente Rotary. Founded by the late Pete McKenzie, a Rotarian and father to a large adopted family. Pete found out early as he mentored his children, that sports had the capability to help develop character. He especially had a fondness for the wrestling program at San Clemente High School and organized the tournament as a way to both raise funds and bring the best wrestlers in the region to their front door.

San Clemente Rotary has continued the tradition , and after Pete’s death the tournament was renamed The Pete McKenzie Memorial Rotary Wrestling Invitational. To this day it is an honor to participants to be invited and attracts schools from far and wide as well as generates badly needed funds for the program.