RYLA, a Camp of Utopia

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Tony Yin writes, Once upon a time, there was a Utopian place where everyone can be as close as a family.

Once upon a time, there was a Utopian place where everyone can be as close as a family. Once upon a time, there is a fascinating place where learning and fun are magically combined together like never before. That magical and fantastic place is a week-long leadership camp near Larkspur, Colorado. This camp is called the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. It is a leadership training program sponsored by Rotary International that promotes, encourages and rewards outstanding young people. This is an all-expense paid five-day camp that brings together a special group of boys and girls from Northern Colorado, Wyoming and Western Nebraska to share ideas about becoming better leaders. There are tons of action-packed programs of activities that help build confidence and leadership skills (like problem solving games, challenge course, zip line, skits, group discussions and teambuilding activities).I have always been a leader no matter whether I am at school, community, or just at home. I didn’t think this camp will change me much because I am already a leader. I was just going to have fun instead of learning. But once I filled out an evaluation sheet of myself, I found out that leaders don’t just have to lead, but also have many good traits. Suddenly, I noticed that I may not be such a terrific leader as I thought I would. I still have numerous traits to improve on in order to become a better leader. Therefore I am poised to improve on those traits in order for me to become a better leader.We were divided into teams that I’ll be working with for the rest of this fun and exciting camp. This camp is full of future leaders of the world, so I’ll have to step down from the leader throne and allow others to take turns leading. At first, everyone was completely strangers with each other. At the end of this exciting camp, all of my teammates were literally like brothers to me.Each day is filled with uncountable amount of action-packed activities to get everyone excited and ready to roll. All the activities here are about learning, fortunately, they are tons of fun. The counselors can turn something as boring as the concept of bullying into an entertaining activity to help us learn. For example, of the first day (Sunday), the counselors made up a skit about always adapt to the environment and always look for change. Instead of just making it plain boring, they told the story of Who Moved My Cheese. In addition to using the book as the topic, they also added a couple of hilarious twists to the skit to make it very humorous. Everything seems like a blur in this craze camp. Before you know it, the day is over. Even though everything is fun, there is one thing that just seems like torture. Sleep is like Mission Impossible. With all the chattering and noise going on all around me, it is impossible to sleep at all. For those kids who think sleeping is for stupid kids, then you are definitely wrong. Every minute of sleep can be as vital as all of your meals. With the busy day coming up, sleep can not be missing at all. If you have to wake up at 6:00am each morning, and sleep at 1:30, then the day ahead is not going to be fun.This camp is all about learning teamwork skills and to trust others. The third and fourth day is filled with numerous mini-activities that are both fun and educational. Kickball, trust fall, skit prep, and the zip line are some of our activities. I think the most entertaining activities are kickball, trust fall and the zip line. In kickball, it seems like our main goal is not to win, but to instead support each other and cheer on for both your teammates and your opponent. The energy is so positive that even if you get out, your teammates still will cheer for you. It makes you feel warm inside and not embarrassed of yourself for costing your team an out. During the middle of the game, the “cheese gets moved” and we have to switch teams and be on the same side as my opponents. This is a great way for us to change our environment and get to know even your opponents. On the fun part, it is extremely easy to score. We play on a gigantic baseball field, with only 9 defenders; it is very hard to stop people from scoring home runs all the time. For big-time kickers like me, getting a home run is like a piece of cake. I just simply have to run my hearts out very soon, I’ll be home. At the end of an hour long game, everyone high-fives each other and congratulate each other on a great game. Teamwork is shown throughout the game as everyone compliments each other for a terrific game.Trust fall is a great example of trust. After only been with each other for three days, trust has not yet developed among us. Yet in a real-life situation, we may have to trust strangers. In a group, trust must get into everyone’s hearts and that is what the counselors are trying to make us do. This activity is dangerous yet thrilling because everyone has to free fall from a five feet tall platform. The jobs of the teammates are to catch or keep the fallers from falling to the ground. This activity requires tons of trusts since you are putting your life on the line into the hands of your teammates. If they make a mishap and accidentally forgot to hold you, then you could be killed. Before the faller falls onto us, we have to say “trusting” because the fallers trust their lives on their teammates. If the rest of the group is ready, then they would say “trust us.” This is because if they don’t say that, then the faller would not be able to trust their teammates. Free falling seems like a terrific experience. The moment before falling is very intense. I know my stomach churn with fear before I fell. Your brain just somehow seems to tell you not to fall down but your body has to resist that inner fear and trust your teammates. It seems like forever before my teammates caught me. I relief swept over my body as I laid on my teammates hands.Zip line is the best activity offered in the camp. First you have to climb a 40-feet rock wall before going sharply downhill rapidly for 200 feet. I haven’t climbed rock wall in a long time. Despite being a good athlete, I still have a hard time climbing that wall. Even though I wasn’t very good at climbing the rock wall and it took me a long time, my team still waited patiently for me and eagerly cheered me on. After finally climbing up the treacherous 40ft wall, I’m on top of the platform. It is only 40ft, but somehow it seems like thousands. I am actually scared about going down the zip line. One thing this camp has taught me is that you have to step out of your own comfort zone. Challenges are a part of life; I’ll have to face them if I’m ever going to be successful in my life. This will be one of the many challenges I’ll be facing as I grow up. A philosopher said that you are right about whatever you choose. If you think you can do it, then you are right. If you think you can’t do it, then you are also correct. Therefore I will have to explore the difficulties in life and complete the zip line. As I slowly sit down on the edge of the platform, I felt wind speeding past me, ready to devour me at any time. I’m not afraid. I will stand up for whatever I believe in and that is to finish the zip line. I started to free fall, letting gravity pull me into open air. The first two seconds are simply true terror; it seems like a roller coaster that just went form 0 mph to 100 mph. After a while it actually is pretty cool. It feels just so greats! All of a sudden, it is as if I can fly and dance along with the wind. I raised my hands up high to feel the air rushing past me. I am free! The experience is just something that can not be described by words. A minute later, this thrilling ride is over, but it will forever remain in my mind as a challenge that I defeated.After just of week of camp, it seems like years of good learning. I did not just learn skills about how to be a leader, but also how to be successful in life. Through this camp, I made tons of new friends that I will forever remember. I have already noticed numerous positive changes happening on me. Thank you Camp RYLA.For more info, go to: http://www.rmryla.org/

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