Students describe inspiring RYLA experience to Hammonton Rotary

Hammonton RYLA students 2016
Pictured from left are Rotarian Michael Brown, Maria Latshaw and Olivia Craig from St. Joseph High School; Kaithlyn Atty, Alexandra Guillot, and Celena Salvo from Hammonton High School, and Rotarian Tom Harrison. Unable to attend Monday was RYLA conferee Elba Lopez from Buena Regional High School.

HAMMONTON – The Hammonton Rotary Club at its weekly meeting Monday, Aug. 29 enjoyed a visit from five local high school students who attended the 37th annual RYLA conference, held June 26-30 at Stockton University.

The Rotary Youth Leadership Awards conference was attended by more than 160 students from throughout southern New Jersey, all made possible through sponsorships of their local Rotary clubs. The Hammonton club sponsored six students this year.

The youth development program, run by Rotary District 7640, is open to high school juniors entering their senior year in September.  RYLA conferees spend five days and four nights at Stockton, taking part in presentations, activities, and workshops, learning leadership fundamentals and ethics, communication skills, problem solving, conflict management and community and global citizenship.

For many of the students it’s their first time away from home for an extended period; and the friendships that they make and lessons learned are lasting.

The Hammonton Rotary Club sponsored six local students to attend this year’s conference. Five of them were able to attend the club’s weekly meeting at Rocco’s Townhouse Monday night.

Attending from Hammonton High School were Alexandra Guillot, Celena Salvo, and Kaithlyn Atty; from St. Joseph High School were Maria Latshaw and Olivia Craig. Unable to attend Monday was RYLA conferee Elba Lopez from Buena Regional High School.

Students said empathy, leadership, how to plan for the future and solving problems in a group setting were some of the important things they learned at the conference. They also enjoyed meeting people with like interests.

Echoing comments heard from RYLA students from years past, all of them said they felt moved and inspired by Mykee Fowlin, a motivational speaker who combines acting talent and psychological training to teach about tolerance, inclusion and diversity.

When asked about their career aspirations, the answers from the RYLA students included engineer, physician’s assistant, attorney, non-profit leader, and nurse midwife.

High school juniors interested in attending the 2017 RYLA program should check, or look for Hammonton Rotary on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Applications will be available in February.

The students also discussed the club’s efforts to establish an Interact Club at Hammonton High School. Interact is the youth service organization sponsored by Rotary International. Hammonton Rotary also sponsors Interact Clubs at St. Joseph and Buena Regional high schools. If all goes according to plan, HHS students will have an opportunity to become part of Interact this fall.

To support RYLA, local scholarships, recreation sports, food programs for poor families and other efforts to help local youth, the Hammonton Rotary Club is auctioning a 2016 Harley Davidson Fat Boy motorcycle. Get your ticket by emailing

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