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Naomi Juarez is one of five eighth-grade students from Portola Jr./Sr. High School chosen by teachers to attend the first weekend of the RYLA camp at Sierra Nevada Journeys on September 13-15. Photo by Kim Wilmer

Eighth-graders attend leadership camp

Rotary District 5190 held the first of two weekends of the eighth annual Rotary District 5190 Eighth Grade Leadership Program (REGL) at Grizzly Creek Ranch on Friday, Sept, 13, through Sunday, Sept. 15.

Each Rotary club in the area sponsors five students they feel have leadership potential, with students being chosen by their teachers and principals.

REGL reaches eighth-graders from across the large Rotary District, brings them together, and provides high quality leadership training, with strong emphasis on ethics, according to camp directors.

The goal is to provide eighth-graders with the tools for the difficult choices that they face as they finish their middle school/junior high school years and move into high school.

“This camp gives students a chance to get involved with insightful activities that allow them to get to know themselves,” said Camp Director Karen Shimamoto.

In total, 44 schools participated in the program, with each of the two weekend camps hosting about 100 students.

Camp Directors Shimamoto of the Rotary Club of Alturas and Paula Dolliver of the Rotary Club of Sparks supervised both 2019 REGL Camps, working closely with REGL instructors, Dean and Rochelle Whellams and a variety of volunteer Rotarian and non-Rotarian adult mentors and counselors, who will be this year’s RYLA graduates, assisting them.

Kids attending the camp are able to meet many new students, a highlight for many that attend, as well as receiving instruction from the Whellams in leadership, communication, teamwork, Rotary and the Four Way Test, ethics, and the values of respect, truth and trustworthiness.

Students at the camp got active with a full day of the Ropes Challenge Course on Saturday, with instructors from Sierra Nevada Journeys, the same group that Rotary Youth Leadership Awakening, or RYLA, uses.

“The kids were on that rope course all day Saturday,” said Shimamoto. “The rope course is a whole other venue of learning opportunity, building safety and trust amongst students.”

Students were also set to work on breaking through obstacles, service learning and goal setting. Attendees at the camp came together to work on designing a service project for their school or community that will be completed in collaboration with their principals.

The service project designed by Portola students is based in the REGL 2019 theme, “We Are People of Action.” The Portola Jr./Sr. High School students that attended the camp will meet with Principal Sara Sheridan to make their project proposal in the next couple of weeks.

“We are always looking to develop our eighth-graders into leaders,” Sheridan said of the REGL camp. “Students that attend always come back with good ideas for the benefit of the school.”

Students wrapped up the weekend with graduation on the Sunday afternoon, with family members, principals and Rotary members gathering to watch each student take a turn on stage to speak about personal insights and takeaways from the camp.

“The REGL experience shows kids that they are worth something,” said Matt Cruse, president of the Rotary Club of Portola, who was a mentor at the second camp, which started Sept. 20.

“This is more than a leadership camp. REGL really encourages kids to step up and take their masks off and be confident in being themselves- it’s really a life changing experience,” said Cruse.

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