RYLA Ponderosa was a "first" for me, and I am so happy that I had the opportunity to witness it all in action from the bottom, up!  I already knew John Wintersteen and his dedication and support of our youth; but, I also had the pleasure of meeting Sherry Mischel.  I soon discovered that Sherry is a petite powerhouse of organization and management!  I believe there were about 75 students in attendance, and another approximate 30 or so Rotaract and adult RYLA volunteers and committee members.  John and Sherry were the ringleaders to it all, and did a fantastic job!
How does RYLA work?
Each year, thousands of young people take part in the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) program worldwide.
High School students are selected for their leadership abilities and experiences. The Rotary clubs pay the registration fee for the delegates weekend.
Those attending will reinforce their leadership abilities and skills, utilize new methods, learn about their inner selves through a well-rounded exciting, stimulating and busy program. Activities vary from climbing the wall and riding a zipline to exploring your own personality while meeting new friends of all ages and backgrounds. This is an interactive experiential program.
Rotary Youth Exchange students from around the world are in each group to share their culture, background and knowledge.Our RYLA weekend will lead delegates to expand their leadership capabilities. It encourages leadership of youth by youth. Delegates exceed their expectations through increased self confidence and group support. Delegates are leaders and followers and gain knowledge of how to apply their skills in each area.
Mesa West was very well represented at RYLA, with many students from Interact that Mesa West has sponsored, as well as our Inbound Exchange Student Takuma and our future Outbound Yordy.  I received many thank you's from our students over the weekend, however,  those thank you's should be directed to ALL in our Club, as it is our Club as a whole that continues to strongly support Rotary youth programs.  
One event over the weekend that should be mentioned in particular, is the service project.  RYLA partnered with Kids Against Hunger, to do a food packing project that would serve kids in St. Johns, Apache County.  We split the project up into two separate sessions, with groups of 4 teams each, to include the large number of volunteer students.  In the first session the first 4 teams packed over 16,000 meals in about an 1.5 hours!  The second session met the challenge as well, and I am happy to report that our RYLA students' motivation and diligence paid off and we packed no less than 30,000 meals in just a few short hours. 
Click on the image to see the video that we created of the RYLA students in action!!  
It was a pleasure being able to witness it all first-hand, and I was thankful to be included, even in the small part that I played.  (At one point I was given a microphone and was the cheerleader/motivator for the Team meal packing.)  [Insert eye-roll here, because we all know how well I am with a microphone in my hand - oh, geez, cringeworthy.]  
Despite me and my microphone - I believe, overall, John and Sherry were pleased with the weekend.  I just kept looking around over the weekend and I continued to see very happy students, working together, learning, engaging, laughing, serving others; and, most important, building their own pathway toward leadership and goodwill to others.  
Story and photos submitted by Donna Goetzenberger