My Rotary Youth Exchange — this year has opened my eyes

Victoria Alvarez and other youth exchange students during their trip to the West Coast of the United States.

Victoria Alvarez and other youth exchange students during their trip to the West Coast of the United States.

By Victoria Alvarez, a Rotary Youth Exchange student from Argentina to the United States

Most of you have probably heard of Rotary Youth Exchange, and maybe some of you have even been involved with the program. I recently completed my exchange year in the United States, and wanted to share the perspective of someone who has just taken part in one.

I come from Argentina, a little country on the edge of South America that you may have heard of recently because of the World Cup. It is in many ways very different from the United States. In signing up for an exchange to America, I stepped out alone into a culture unlike any I had experienced, in an unfamiliar environment, in a house I did not know, to live with people I did not know. Leaving behind family, friends, and most of what was familiar. Continue reading

Speaking up for Rotary Youth Leadership Awards

Darren Luong, left, and Matt Pomeroy receive cetifications from District 7090 for their work with youth service.

Darren Luong, left, and Matt Pomeroy receive certificates from District 7090 for their work with youth service.

By Darren Luong, a member of the E-Club of Southern Ontario, Canada & Western New York

Sixteen years ago, as a student at Cardinal Heights Middle School in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, I received an award from the local Rotary club at my graduation. I didn’t know what Rotary was or even why I had received the award. Time went by and it was forgotten at the bottom of some boxes packed away.

Eight years later, I was sponsored to go to a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards event in my district. This life-changing week and the support from Rotary throughout my life has convinced me that this organization is full of amazing people that can really change the world for the better. Continue reading

My time with ‘Future Rotarians’ in Sydney

Participants in the 2014 International RYLA.

Participants in the 2014 International RYLA.

By Dr. Mona Khanna, a former Rotary Group Study Exchange fellow

If you were at the 2014 RI Convention in Sydney, Australia, this week, you may have seen the sticker “Future Rotarian” on some badges. Chances are the badges belonged to members of Rotaract and/or delegates to the 2014 International Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) development program. Continue reading

Home doesn’t have just one name: lessons from a youth exchange

Rotary Youth Exchange students from several countries in Paris.

Rotary Youth Exchange students from several countries in Paris.

Elizabeth, a Rotary Youth Exchange student from District 6080 (Missouri, USA) to France

I used to think that the sky only stretched on for as far as I could see, and then where my vision became blurred, the world ceased to exist.

I used to think that happiness came from surrounding myself with things that brought me comfort. I used to think the best friends I would ever have were the ones I’d known forever. I used to think that in order to call someone family meant they had to be related by blood. And I used to think that home only had one name. Continue reading

Rotary Youth Exchange shaped my life

Denise DiNoto

Denise DiNoto

By Denise DiNoto, Rotary Club of Colonie-Guilderland, New York, USA

In August 1990, I left my hometown in rural upstate New York, for a year as an exchange student to Tasmania, Australia. The experience helped shape my adult life, as it has for many other exchange students. However, my situation was unique because I was one of the first students with a mobility impairment to participate in Rotary Youth Exchange.

Continue reading

RI President Ron Burton: Changing lives by inspiring the next generation

RI President Ron Burton and his wife, Jetta, (second and third from right) at the Presidential New Generations Conference in Uganda.

RI President Ron Burton and his wife, Jetta, (second and third from right) at the Presidential New Generations Conference in Uganda.

What does it mean to Engage Rotary, Change Lives? For me, it means, in part, to share my love of Rotary as well as empower the next generation of Rotarians. I’m hoping I was able to do that when from 4 to 5 November I visited Kampala, Uganda, for the second Presidential New Generations Conference.  Continue reading

Lessons I learned in teamwork

130912_enricoBy Enrico Giuseppe Ferro, past president of the Yale University Rotaract Club, New Haven, USA, winner of the 2013 “Rotaract Outstanding Project Award for the USA, Canada and Caribbean Districts” 

In 2009, I took part in a Rotary Youth Exchange to Canandaigua, New York, USA, which taught me many things about teamwork.

I worked side by side with Rotarians and other exchange students to develop strategies to enhance our service efforts. We held themed-cuisine nights where we cooked and sold food native to our home countries to raise money for projects and shared ideas on how to promote each other’s good works. I realized how through Rotary I could work with people from many different perspectives to tackle urgent problems in our communities.

Continue reading

What do you tell your children about Rotary?

Simone and Ariana Collins.

Simone and Ariana Collins.

By Simone Collins, past president of the Rotary Club of Freshwater Bay, Western Australia, Australia

I have never forgotten a conversation I had with a Rotarian who was one of our strongest supporters, back when I was still a Rotaractor. Her own children had never joined Rotary or Rotaract, because they didn’t want to belong to something “boring” like their parents did! I was gobsmacked.

What precisely are we as Rotarians telling our children about Rotary? What do they see? Do they just see you going to “boring” meetings? Or do they see what inspires you about Rotary? Continue reading

Invite a young person on a service project and change a life

The above video shows images from Danae Cooney’s service project trips to Fiji and to Cambodia with Habitat for Humanity.

By Danae Cooney, a Rotary scholar and former Interactor from Hamilton, New Zealand

Sometimes all it takes is one; one person willing to open a door, offer an opportunity and lead another.

In August 2011, I was 16 years old. I was given the opportunity to participate in a Rotary service project in Fiji. I traveled with a team of Rotarians, including my stepfather, to a small, remote village in Fiji called Saqani, where we refurbished a rotting, unusable preschool. Continue reading