By: Bec Fry and Ben MacNevin
RYLA is a life-changing experience, with an incredible history in Oceania. The first RYLA took place in Queensland in 1959 and since then, tens of thousands of young leaders between the ages of 18 and 30 have participated in RYLA across Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific Islands.
With so many RYLA participants excited to continue their RYLA journey, an advanced program for RYLA alumni in Oceania was born! We are Rebecca Fry and Ben MacNevin, and together with an incredible team, we held the inaugural RYLA Oceania program in 2020. RYLA Oceania is the result of two years of collaboration with RYLA program chairs, directors and leaders from Rotary districts across Oceania.
The objective of RYLA Oceania was to create an advanced leadership program for RYLA Alumni seeking to continue their personal and professional development journey and make an impact on their local communities.
We wanted to build on the strong foundation of each local program and also draw on the amazing network of Rotary. Our guiding motto was, “Go fast alone, go far together”. And we were thrilled by the results!
RYLA Oceania started as an in-person week-long leadership retreat and continued throughout the year with an online platform and virtual support network. In the first year, the program included 24 participants across Oceania and provided the opportunity for local RYLA districts to send alumni from their programs as ambassadors.
Participants have opportunities to enhance the skills and experience gained during district RYLA programs through mentoring, a community project, and a leadership curriculum.
The community project was a vital element of RYLA Oceania. We linked the projects to Rotary’s areas of focus to provide participants with a clear awareness of the greater Rotary network. Each project team was supported by Rotarians that could provide experience, support, and connections. The six community projects included the Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group (ESRAG), Operation Toilets, LGBT+ Rotary Fellowship, Rotary Oceania RYLA Alumni Association (RORAA), See It – Say It – Share It & Many Nations – Many Voices, and Voices of Hope (VOH).
Feedback is another imperative component of any RYLA. We designed an online system for participants to reflect and track their achievements both qualitatively and quantitatively over a 12-month period. Each month, the participants review their goals and systems and respond to a series of reflection questions. They also rank key drivers including their motivation, the extent they have challenged themselves, and the extent they have supported others.
We then provide each participant with a personalized quarterly report which summarizes their progress and provides individual feedback to support their development. The online system also prompts the participants every month to provide feedback and suggestions on how we can improve the program and highlight any additional support they need.
RYLA Oceania provided an amazing community for the RYLA participants and the volunteers, particularly during such a challenging and disruptive year. We would like to thank everyone that was involved in the program, and we couldn’t be happier with the end result. As one participant put it: “This program thoroughly exceeded expectations. Retreat Week was one of the best experiences of my life and the follow up support all year has been fantastic.”
RYLA Oceania was also supported by the Marketing and Communications team, which not only produced timely and relevant content, but also presented the program and our partners very professionally. We encourage you to visit our website – www.rylaoceania.org