WAXAHACHIE — Each year, Rotary Clubs in the north Texas district select two or three incoming seniors for the Rotary Youth Leadership Award. Only 180 students are selected from the entire north Texas district and are awarded scholarships valued at $650.
Students in Waxahachie are chosen from Waxahachie High and Waxahachie Global High because of their outstanding scholastic abilities and leadership skills during their school careers.
The purpose of Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) is to train young people to be team players and positive leaders in the future. Each year the participants return stating that they have met new friends for life and their lives have been changed for the better. They each make a speech to the club expressing their thanks for an experience that has been life changing.
This year the students chosen included Meagan Connor, daughter of Summer Douglass and Stephen Connor; Andrew Silva, son of Lori Silva and Domingo Silva; and Jessica Lenamond, daughter of Janee Rose and Josh Lenamond.
Connor learned to do things that make an impact, not an impression. She said she learned to form strong bonds and always cherish every moment with others. Instead of insisting on being the leader she would spend more time learning what others want.
Lenamond learned to be positive and to compliment and motivate others. So many people are negative today and that is not productive. She learned valuable lessons about herself, how she demonstrated leadership and what kind of leader she is.
Silva expressed his anxiety about participating, but the welcoming and accepting atmosphere won him over. This led him to try things he would not have considered before – indeed a developmental experience. He learned to sit back and listen then act inclusively.
All three said they had made friends for life and past experiences with previous winners would prove this is true. Spending six days from early morning to late evening with a group in intense situations will bind you together. Because of this intensity, the presentations they make to the Club explaining their experiences are often emotional.
Diane Johnson Collard, the Rotary sponsor, told the program has been very successful over the years in guiding some of the top students to develop more effective leadership skills which will stay with them throughout their lives. Rotarian Bob Aday is also a sponsor.