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By Jacqueline Garcia, Kaycee Bennett, Marissa Talamante and Ben Miller
Special to The SUN
When we individually applied for the Rotary Youth Leadership Award, none of us knew what we were getting into.
In the beginning, we were all told that two applicants would be accepted into this one-of-a-kind program.
Later, we were informed that our local Rotary community couldn’t decide on just two students and that they had found a way to fund all four of us who wished to attend this conference — an extremely generous gift.
Multiple times we where told what an amazing experience this would be, but words cannot describe how this trip would change our lives.
The four of us set off to Glenwood Springs, Colo., expecting long days in classrooms and hours of lectures. We soon found out this would not be the case.
We were pushed out of comfort zones within the first two hours of our arrival, when we were split up into groups with complete strangers. These groups were designed to make us think, to become leaders, and make lifelong friends; they did just that.
We discussed everything from what makes a great leader to different leadership styles. Nothing at the RYLA conference was handed to us. We were required to think and decide things for ourselves.
To push us even further out of our comfort zones, we battled the elements and our patience in orienteering, concurred our fears on the high ropes, dug deep into ourselves when talking about ethics, and put massive amounts of trust in the people around us in low ropes. These activities where also done in groups in which we knew no one.
Being able to experience all of this was completely new and extremely eye opening. Through lots of discussion and collaboration with the people around us, we acquired the tools needed to live, and help others live, an amazing and fulfilling life.
Throughout the weekend we built self-confidence that will help us make a huge impact on the community. The idea of paying it forward, doing small acts of kindness to benefit others, and service over self were instilled in us and we now wish to go out in the community and start making a positive impact.
We went into this conference knowing just each other; we came out knowing 50 or so people who shared many of the same ideas and aspirations that we hold. These people we can now call our friends as we all head out to better the world in which we live.
This is all thanks to Rotary — the Rotarians in Pagosa Springs as well as Rotarians worldwide. This amazing organization has not only provided great programs such as RYLA and foreign exchange, but it has nearly cured polio in every country.
We were taught a test that helps us determine if a certain action is right: if it is fair to all concerned; if it will build goodwill and better friendship; and if it will be beneficial to all concerned. If we ask ourselves these questions we are able to have a positive impact on everyone around us.
We now wish to go out and give back, since this program was such an extraordinary experience.
Our thanks go to the Pagosa Springs Rotary Club and Pagosa Mountain Morning Rotary Club, and to everyone who believes in us as a generation. We have much to offer, and we are excited and eager to begin this new chapter in our lives. Thanks again Pagosa Springs Rotary for this incredible opportunity.