Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of blog posts from the 2018 Youth Leadership All-Stars, participants in Rotary’s programs for young leaders, in celebration of Youth Service Month.
By Rhett Martin, Rotaract Club of Silverton, Oregon, USA
Everyone comes to a crossroad at least once in their life. As a young adult, I have actually already faced two big-time choice moments. The first came six years ago when deciding whether or not to quit school in order to start a career I knew nothing about. The second came twelve months ago as I was presented with a job offer from one of the world’s biggest, up-and-coming tech companies. The job would pay over six figures, offer great health benefits and stock options, as well as a chance to expand my professional experience. The catch? I would have to leave the quaint little town I love for the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.
In the end, I opted not to take the job. But I decided that if I was going to pass it up, I needed to give all I’ve got to the community I chose over money and career expansion. Coincidentally, around the same time, a spot on the Silverton City Council opened up. Instead of appointing a replacement as usual, the mayor and council decided to open the position up for applications. Becoming a city councilor and eventually mayor has always been a goal of mine, but for when I was in my 30’s or 40’s – not at the age of 26.
But I decided that this would be my best chance to get more involved in my community and represent an age group that has been missing on the local government level. After two rounds of interviews and competing against many qualified candidates, I was selected to fill the position as the youngest-ever Silverton city councilor.
A month into my term, the mayor, who happens to be a Rotarian, pulled me aside and explained an upcoming program called Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA). “RYLA is a truly life changing experience,” he said.
Sounds cheesy, right? Well the joke was on me. “Life changing” was not only accurate, but an understatement. That one week at RYLA shaped me in ways that are hard to describe, across all aspects of my personal and professional life. But most of all, I left with a raging desire to become a better leader and even more active and involved in my community.
In the months following RYLA, the mayor, my friend Elvi, and myself, began discussing the possibility of starting a community-based Rotaract club. By January of this year, those discussions became a reality as we held our first Silverton Rotaract meeting. In what has seemed like a whirlwind of the last few months, we have now been officially chartered, helped with various community projects and events, and learned from many different local professionals.
One of our most exciting projects is the establishment of Silverton’s only college scholarship specifically for young adults ages 24-30 going back to school and continuing their education. Since I was appointed to City Council, and especially since being elected as our Rotaract club’s charter president, my biggest goal has been creating an environment that drives growth and outreach into the community. The hardest part about getting involved is not knowing how and where to start.
By opening up avenues such as Rotaract, we can give our young adults a place to find themselves and to give back. In helping each of our members grow personally and professionally, we are creating driven, well-rounded individuals that are ready to go out and make a change in the world. If I can succeed at this goal, that will be my biggest accomplishment.
Learn more about how you can get involved with Rotaract.