Brownwood High School junior Mia didn’t know what to expect when she attended the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards camp, held earlier this month at Texas Women’s University in Denton.
    “But when I got there, it just blew my expectations away,” Mia, one of three Brownwood students selected for the camp, said at the Brownwood Rotary Club’s monthly luncheon Wednesday at the Brownwood Country Club.
    Mia and the other two Brownwood students who attended — Kaitlyn Davis and Julia Nash — gave glowing reviews of the June 15-18 camp. The three were among students throughout Rotary District 5790, which consists of 70 clubs including Brownwood.
    Local Rotary Clubs provide funds for students to attend the camps, which are referred to by the acronym RYLA.
    “Everyone there is so friendly,” Romero said. “They divided us into different families, so we could get to mingle with different people. My family and I were extremely close from the first day. By the time we left, we were all emotional and crying because it felt like we had been with each other for three weeks rather than four days.”
    Romero said she learned at the camp there are different types of leaders, including those who are quiet and stay in the background, but “they’re viewing everything that’s happening, they’re observing and they give their input when it’s needed.”
    According to the Rotary District 5790 website, RYLA aims to:
    • Demonstrate Rotary’s respect and concern for young people.
    • Provide leadership concepts.
    • Encourage leadership of youth by youth.
    • Recognize publicly young people who are rendering service to their communities.
    “It was a really great learning experience,” Davis said. “What we learned at the camp is that leadership is actually more of a teamwork effort rather than just one person leading the entire group.
    “You automatically think, oh, to be a leader, I have to take charge, I  have to be that upfront person. But in reality, you really don’t. You can step back, you can listen, you can just help everyone else rather than be that upfront person.”
    RYLA is led in a professional, collegiate atmosphere where objectives include:
    • Developing leadership skills through fun activities.
    • Increasing self-confidence and enhance teamwork skills.
    • Learning proper social and business etiquette through a formal dinner.
    • Observeing how city government operates while participating in a mock city council meeting.
    • Participating in a community service project.
    • Learning about the Rotary Four-Way Test (Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?)
    “I’d like to say thank you for sending us,” Nash said. “One thing that stuck out to me about the camp was the atmosphere. I learned about stepping back and saying ‘oh, we can use your idea, we can use your idea.' I feel like if I’d done some of those activities at school, someone would have just said ‘I’m in charge, we’re doing it my way.’
    “At camp, if someone messed up, we’d say “OK, we’re going to try it a different way.”