The first RYLA I ever attended was back in around 2017. I was an Interactor, still new to the club: a little intimidated, a little inspired, and very sure I wanted to be a part of the organization. Around seven clubs from our country were hosting a joint RYLA that would last two days a couple of months in. Very distinctly, I remember having to beg my parents to allow me to go – I didn’t know what the experience would hold for me. Still, the excitement of meeting new people and going somewhere far to focus on team building and leadership was too big of an opportunity to miss out on.
A couple of years later, having attended over 5 RYLA’s, I genuinely was right to beg my parents back then. Rotary Youth Leadership Award programs are once-in-a-lifetime experiences that teach you plenty about yourself and your club. RYLA’s also aim to stretch your brain, force you to bring new ideas to the table and explore past the limits.

So, how do you organize a RYLA?

First and foremost, round up a team from your club to start the brainstorming process. Make sure to have at least one person with you who has attended a RYLA before.
Think about your target audience: is this a RYLA for your club? Would you consider hosting a joint RYLA with (a) club(s) from your country? Or are you interested in hosting a district RYLA?

Also, think about your theme. Come up with a slogan or motto for the conference to fall under. What part of ‘Leadership’ is your main focus going to be? Do you want to invite the opportunity to explore other topics under that umbrella, such as team-building or entrepreneurship?
Slogan examples from past RYLA’s are:
Dream, Define, Do
Youth Making A Difference
Reaching Beyond

After that, you can begin to split up the tasks accordingly; assign people in charge of:

  • B
    Finding a potential host venue
    After having an estimate of how many people may attend as well as possible dates and times, you’re able to find a spot that isn’t too far away from those attending, will have enough space for activities and extracurriculars, and preferably, can provide snacks or a meal break in between sessions. It’s also a great help if the venue can accommodate overnight stays if the RYLA is longer than one day.
  • C
    Scouting for Speakers
    You can go about this in two ways: choose speakers and allow them to contribute topics that they excel in and feel would be an excellent addition to the conference theme and attendees, or explore issues that you’d like the conference to include and research professionals in that field. Both ways, make sure you have: 1) an overview of the length of the speaker’s session (more than an hour becomes tiring for the attendees and might need to be broken up with an engaging game or activity) and 2) the name of their session, an idea of the speaker’s background, their time slot in the potential RYLA program, and any other ideas that might be relevant to creating the schedule and social media posts later on.
    Make sure your speakers have experience with a crowd like yours, from age group to size. The more engagement, the better responses you’ll get regarding the fruitfulness of the event.
  • D
    Most of the time, events like RYLA are sponsored by either Rotary clubs or other companies, businesses, or supportive people who would like to ensure this is a success. You can send proposal emails to all who you see fit, asking for sponsorship. It can be something other than a monetary sponsorship; sometimes, it can be something like providing catering or lending the sound system for the event. Other times, the sponsor decides to cover the fees of a certain amount of attendees, for example. In all cases, having a sponsor is a great way to gain exposure for your event, ensure that it’s adequately funded, and ensure that the payment barrier is partially covered.
  • E
    After your program is set, your speakers are ready, and the location, date, and time are determined, you’re able to start working on the following:
    Create the Logo, Posters, Template for the schedule, nametags, etc… (Come up with a cohesive and attractive layout and design; make sure to include all the details)

Social Media (Create a Facebook event, and have the club members share the flyer/poster of the RYLA to hopefully attract non-Rotaractors who may see the value in such a conference. Remember that the RYLA is the perfect gateway for someone to join the club, as it’s an all-in-one experience) (Make sure to tag your speakers on social media, there are always people who wait for the opportunity to watch them live)

Sign-Up Sheet
You can either have someone in charge of the registration process or a registration form online for everyone to use. Some of the information you’ll need is:
Person’s full name
Email address & Phone number
Date of Birth and Gender (if seen as necessary)
Position in Rotaract (board member, head of the committee, member, non-member, or Friend of the Club, for example) and where they’re from (which club/district)
Number of days they’ll be attending the conference (if applicable)
Emergency contact information (Phone Number, Relationship to that person, etc..)
Emergency health information (blood type, special needs, allergies, etc.)
You may need extra information not mentioned here, so gather it all from the attendees before the RYLA.

  • F
    Fees & Expenses:
    Indeed, by now, your fees are set, and you have an idea of what the event will cost each attendee. Make sure to have a detailed list of all the expenses, and gather a deposit from those who signed up to confirm their spot, as most of the time, space is limited, or the organizing committee will need to know the exact amount of those attending.
  • G
    For an added touch, the organizing committee can make sure to have participation awards for all the attendees and tokens of appreciation for the speakers and sponsors.

Finally, it is time for your RYLA to take place! After months of hard work and preparation, your event is coming together, and it’s finally happening! Make sure to have at least two people keeping track of the schedule on the day(s) of the event to ensure that all goes smoothly. Have fun, take pictures, make friends, and, most importantly, learn!
PS: If you get inspired to host a RYLA after reading this, let us know! We would love to hear your feedback and add some of your personal experiences to the guide!

Here’s an example of a more recent RYLA regarding scheduling, visuals, sessions and activities.

“Most excitingly, Rotaract and Rotary Clubs of Aley, Lebanon decided to ‘Accelerate the Vision’ by hosting this year’s RYLA on Saturday and Sunday, August 27th and 28th, in AFDC Ramlieh.

In collaboration with Berytech and Beyond Group, and sponsored by Beit Nasa, an exciting weekend unfolded, with tons of opportunities to get Rota-knowledge as well as gain interpersonal and entrepreneurial skills that would last Rotaractors a lifetime.

More than 40 members of Rotaract clubs from all around Lebanon attended the event, with special visits from the Rotaract District Governor, Mr George Azar, District Secretary Samar Saab, President of Rotary Aley Jaafar Abdelakhalek, and RYLA District chairperson Victoria Cherfane.

The day began early on Saturday with the Welcome Ceremony from 9-10 am, followed by a day of back-to-back sessions from Berytech, an EU-accredited Business Innovation Center. The first session, Ideation, allowed members to explore the process of creating an idea and executing it most effectively. Session 2 mainly revolved around Design thinking, a solution-based approach that is essential in finding out what one’s audience needs. After a team-building activity and lunch, session 3 took place regarding Business Modeling, which focused on the various business model adaptation strategies that will help businesses build more resilience in the face of crisis and uncertainty.

After another activity and dinner, the attendees gathered around a campfire all through the night, making it a great end to Day 1.

Day 2’s sessions were all presented by Beyond, who specialize in Social Entrepreneurship, which was the topic of both Sessions 1 and 2, with a small activity separating them. Team & Community Building for Impact Creation was the topic of Session 3, making it the last of the day.
Everyone had lunch, then one last gathering for the Closing ceremony, in which members received Participation awards for attending this fantastic event.
And with that, a fun-filled learning experience ended, leaving members with a tighter bond and more robust ability to achieve great things.”

By Maya Alawar

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