Reporting with Hills Pride

The Trailblazer

Reporting with Hills Pride

The Trailblazer

Reporting with Hills Pride

The Trailblazer

    Give Me What You Got for a Pork Chop

    Any self-respecting Jew has gone to summer camp. It’s a bigger rite of passage than having your bar or bat mitzvah.

    Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to immerse myself in a home away from home, with a summer family. However, during May of my junior year, I experienced what I had been missing, and it happened completely by accident.

    I absent-mindedly wandered into the guidance office, and was so embarrassed that I walked in for no reason that I went towards the nearest forms available: applications for a leadership conference that sounded so lame.

    Nonetheless I took the form and filled it out, thinking nothing of it. A few weeks and an interview later, it was confirmed that I would be joining one hundred New Jersey juniors at the Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA).

    My bag was packed, and I boarded a bus at Paramus High School having no idea what was going to happen. If you Google RYLA, you’ll find that very little is described or it’s completely vague and unhelpful. Past RYLA-teers didn’t help either; they simply stated that RYLA is amazing and left it at that. (Chloe Murtaugh and Ashley Karkenny participated in RYLA 2010, as did Steve Thorwarth and myself in RYLA 2011.)

    The week was so filled with leadership exercises and feelings that it put Ms. Norbury to shame—we even did trust falls. And honestly, I have made some of my closest friends over the course of that week than I have in the seven years I have resided in Montvale. Even Steve and I have created a bond that only RYLA could forge.

    Of the 100+ juniors, there were people of many different religions, races, sexual orientations, and genders to meet. We got split up into our main group, determined by the color of bandana, along with action groups. Action groups were chosen based on preference of the RYLA-teer: spirit, newsletter, public speaking, and community service. And you would room with people of the same gender in a cabin, and none of them would be in your original group. And you rarely saw anyone from your school.

    The breaking up of initially established cliques allowed for people to move outside of their comfort zones and constantly meet new people. No one sat at the same table during breakfast, lunch, or dinner for the same purpose.

    By the end of the week, I personally knew and interacted with almost every person at RYLA; I even volunteered to make the Facebook group. (Warning: DO NOT volunteer to do this).

    After RYLA ended, it was impossibly hard to go back to “normal life” because I, along with most of the people I spoke with, felt completely different. It’s impossible to describe but so prominent in all of the participants. Steve and I will be attending the RYLA reunion to see everyone again before we leave for college, and it’ll be like we never left.

    I urge you to apply for the program, simply because it’s amazing. Forms are available at guidance, and you can look at pictures here.

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