August 2009

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Take a look into the personal toolboxes of 120 aspiring future leaders from Northern Colorado, Wyoming and Western Nebraska and you will find a complete set of BrainWise skills. Each year, Rotary International Districts 5440 and 5450 sponsor a 5-day leadership training program designed to promote, encourage and reward outstanding young people by helping them develop a foundation for leadership. This year’s camp was held July 26-31 at the Ponderosa Retreat and Conference Center in Larkspur, Colorado.

The program, called Young-RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards) brings together incoming eighth grade boys and girls for a life-changing week of teambuilding exercises, problem solving, introspection and self assessment that simulate key leadership challenges. According to 2009 Young-RYLA Chair, BrainWise Instructor and Colorado Rotarian, Patricia Fiske, “teambuilding is the focus.” The kids are divided into teams led by a youth counselor and a Rotarian advisor who guide them through problem-solving games, a challenge course, zip line, skits, group discussions and other exercises. This year’s program also featured workshops with a poet and a professional dance troupe.

“In all of the teambuilding exercises, we measure the students’ progress on a whole list of leadership qualities, including bringing out the best in others,” Fiske said.

On the first day of camp this year, Senior Counselors presented leadership concepts to the campers using BrainWise skills. Each counselor had been assigned a “Wise Way,” and together the counselors performed a skit for the campers that taught them how leaders have to “Stop and Think,” “Manage their Emotions,” “use their Network of Support,” and employ other BrainWise skills. Fiske was especially proud of the way the counselors integrated the BrainWise and leadership concepts for the Young-RYLA participants throughout the week.

“BrainWise is so fundamental that it was natural to adapt it to leadership skills,” Fiske said.