EACH year around 10,000 16-18 year olds worldwide are sponsored through Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) programmes by Rotary Clubs with the aim of the of providing them with an insight into key aspects of their personal development as they move from school life to higher education or employment.

Over the past 18 years, this Rotary District has helped over 500 students achieve this. In August this year, Oswestry Rotary club sponsored Marches student Harry Gardner to attend RYLA 2017, a residential course at the Arthog outdoor educational centre in mid Wales with around 40 other young people from the District.

Harry recently came to an Oswestry Rotary club meeting to give a presentation about his experience. As a 17 year old studying A levels in the Upper Sixth at the Marches Academy, Harry had gone along to Arthog quite an underconfident young man. Before the course, he had filled in a ‘Belbin’ team roles questionnaire, and recognised that he needed to build his confidence, improve his teamwork and gain leadership and better social skills – RYLA helped with activities such as orienteering and rock-climbing. The test also showed, however, that he has strong analytical qualities which were put to good use in acting as the financial manager for his team of ten utilising business skills to purchase vital components of a raft with virtual money for the final day’s race challenge.

“Going to RYLA was like being thrown in at the deep end; I struggled with my confidence – talking to 40 people I had never met before was hard for me. Getting to know my team and problem-solving together helped and we all bonded and encouraged each other in the competitive elements. I now have much more confidence than before and a group of good friends. RYLA has changed my life.” said Harry.

Anita Wyatt, Sixth Form Student Support Coordinator at The Marches, accompanied Harry to the Rotary meeting. “I am very proud of Harry. There is no way he would have been able to have stand up and present to a room full of people prior to his RYLA experience. We are very grateful for your ongoing sponsorship of our students and the transformative effect it has on them.” she said.

Pictured: (L-R) Anita Wyatt, Oswestry Rotary President David Davies and Harry Gardner