Be Brave, Be RYLA, Be You!

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I would like to start off by saying thank you all for sponsoring me to go to RYLA 2016 at Camp Pinerock over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. It was an unbelievable experience that has absolutely changed me for the better. It has been two weeks since I was at RYLA and I still get emotional thinking about my amazing group and everything I learned from each and every one of them.


Let me start off by telling you a little bit more about myself. My name is Hannah Pohlmeyer and I am a Freshman AAEC Estrella Mountain. I am 15 years old love being involved with my school and community. I first heard about RYLA through my dad’s Rotary, Glendale West, but I was very hesitant to apply because I heard that Freshman are not accepted. However, I finally decided to apply and I am so happy that I did.

My first day at RYLA was very nerve racking. I didn’t know anybody there and everyone seemed so much older than me. I was afraid that they wouldn’t be very accepting of someone so much younger than them. When I got my badge and jacket upon arrival at Camp Pinerock, I found out I would be in Team Brazil. I joined my group quietly and cheered as others were placed into their teams. We were then sent to our cabins and I met my three fabulous roommates. At dinner that night was when I first realized how amazing RYLA was going to be. I got to know all of the other teenagers in my group from high schools across Arizona and even one from Nevada. Each group also had a foriegn exchange student and the team was named after their home country. Our exchange student was Christopher, a Junior from Brazil who attends Lake Havasu High School this school year. Over the course of the weekend I got to know the members of Team Brazil more than I have any other friend. We all grew so close that it made it very hard to leave Monday afternoon. Every single one us, adult supervisors and Junior Counselor included, were crying harder than I have ever seen a group of people who just met cry.

Over the weekend we did so many fun activities as group and we also heard many fabulous speakers who were very motivation and definitely changed my perspective on a lot of things. One of my favorite activities that we did was a bully prevention session where, as a team, we were supposed to create a way that help prevent bullying at our high schools. Most groups listed things such as, leaving letters in lockers or having motivational speakers come and talk about bullying to the students; however, my team decided to design an app that could be used in schools for victims of bullying, bullies, or anyone else who just needs a place to vent.

We got such a positive reaction from our idea that the creation of the app is already in motion thanks to a few of the other group member’s Interact clubs. RYLA was one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life. I still receive texts and updates every single day from almost all of the members of Team Brazil and I love wearing the bracelets that I got from our exchange student, Christopher, and one of the motivational speakers, Olenka Cullinan, founder of Rising Tycoons every single day. Thank you all again for sponsoring me to go to RYLA. I grew so much over the course of the weekend and made lifelong friends. I am looking forward to applying to be a Junior Counselor for RYLA 2017!

Author: Aaron Fritz

Joined Rotary in 1999. Past President of the Highlands Ranch Rotary Club, Charter Member of the Rotary Club of Castle Pines, Past President of the Rotary eClub of Arizona, Past Assistant Governor for District 5490 and Assistant Governor for District 5495. Multiple Paul Harris Fellow (3 currently). 2nd Generation Rotarian.

One thought on “Be Brave, Be RYLA, Be You!”

  1. RYLA is one of the best programs that Rotary and Rotarians put on. Because it involves our children. When you read a letter like Hannah Pohlmeyer it is just one of hundreds of kids that have said the same thing over and over year after year. It’s a first step as a young adult to help them shape the person that they are going to be.
    My involvement in being a parent counselor and just taking pictures so they can get a glimpse of them self’s over the week end has and continues to be a journey. Not only for these remarkable kids but for me too. Just in talking with them is truly an education. These kids are smart, brave and have a great sense of humor that has kept a smile on my face for years.
    RYLA, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards.


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