After 38 years of hosting in the Blue Mountains, the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) is at the end of an era as Rotary districts across greater Sydney are restructured.
Since 1975, young leaders have been selected by Rotary clubs to develop their leadership skills at Blue Gum Lodge in Springwood.
The week-long program, which ended last weekend, provided an opportunity for young people between the age of 18 and 25 to step out of their comfort zone, leave behind friends, family and technology and develop both leadership and personal skills.
Local RYLA leader, Annabelle Samios, said the last camp at Blue Gum was emotional.
“Hosting the RYLA program has been a fantastic opportunity and we’re sad to see it go,” she said.
“The good news is the program will continue despite the redistribution of boundaries and people from the Mountains will still able to participate next year.
“It’s the end of an era for us and Blue Gum Lodge but we are excited for what the future holds for this program,” Ms Samios said.
Winmalee resident, Susan Templeman, who attended RYLA in 1979 and has been a guest speaker for more than a decade, agreed it’s sad to see the leadership award leave the Blue Mountains.
“As one of the early RYLArians, it’s hard to imagine the annual gathering being held anywhere else.
“The Blue Mountains has been the ideal place for young people from as far east as Strathfield and as far west as Lithgow to be challenged to find their place as community and business leaders.
“But the changes to the Rotary District, and the relocating of RYLA, also provide a great opportunity to reinvigorate the best leadership program around,” Ms Templeman said.
Awardee Chris Mosmann found he got a lot out the program.
“Personally, I conquered my fear of heights, made life-time long friends and gained the knowledge to become a successful manager in almost any work environment,” he said.
“I also have a new found ability to approach strangers comfortably.”