Nineteen high school juniors from Palestine, Westwood and Elkhart schools have been selected by the Rotary Club of Palestine to attend the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) in Woodlake Jan. 6-8.

More than 200 high school juniors from 37 Rotary Clubs in District 5910 will be attending this all-expense-paid weekend camp to enhance their leadership skills at the Pineywoods Baptist Encampment.

Selected to attend were: PHS students Tyler Baack, Joseph Bates, Marilyn Chicas, Xavier Estrada, Dominic Jacolsmeyer, Will LaRue, Anne Luce, Nene Nguyen, Ajay Patel and Allison Reed; WHS students Dennis Alberto, Sarah Henry, Sarah Holcomb, Jerome King and Desiree Kim-Mai Tran; and EHS students Nichole Lee McCoy, Austin Neel, Melissa Ridgeway and Kelly Shook.

“RYLA is Rotarians working with youth in an intensive leadership development program for community youth leaders who were chosen for their leadership potential,” RYLA publicity chair Melissa Tortorici said. “Rotarians from District 5910 run and organize the event.”

RYLA programs around the world include the following preparation: fundamentals of leadership, ethics in positive leadership, importance of communication skills in effective leadership, problem-solving and conflict management, what is Rotary and what it does for the local community, building self-confidence and self-esteem and elements of community and global citizenship.

District 5910 began hosting RYLA in 1991. The event has grown from 15 students to more than 200. Due to this expansion, RYLA outgrew Stephen F. Austin State University’s Pineywoods Conservation Center near Broaddus, where the leadership training has been held for the last 13 years.

“With the change in location, all students will be able to attend on one weekend instead of dividing them up into two weekends,” Tortorici said. “The new location will also allow for even more growth.”

District 5910 is comprised of clubs from Anderson, Angelina, Brazos, Cherokee, Galveston, Houston, Jefferson, Liberty, Montgomery, Nacogdoches, Orange, Polk, San Augustine, Shelby, Tyler and Walker counties.


Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at

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