Lakeview Rotarian Robie McGowen stands with LHS sophomore Ariel McKelvey, who shared about her eRYLA experience during a recent Rotary lunch.

Lakeview High School sophomore Ariel McKelvey regaled the Lake Rotary Club with an account of her experience in the recent virtual Rotary Youth Leadership Awards camp — eRYLA.

RYLA is a leadership retreat that allows youth to explore their leadership qualities and to understand the qualities of others. This was the first year RYLA was offered virtually. It took place from Wednesday, April 28 through Sunday, May 2.

The camp is completely free for participants — Rotarians cover all costs. This year, Lakeview Rotary sponsored McKelvey and Cecilia Ugalde from Phoenix High School.

eRYLA, presented by Leader N U, was developed by Rotarians, RYLA alumni, and staff from all experience levels. “We didn’t want our own RYLA camps to be cancelled due to the pandemic, so we sought out building an alternative,” eRYLA organizers note on the Leader N U website.

McKelvey said eRYLA was a great experience and taught her a lot about leadership. She did note that it was difficult at times to finish out the virtual sessions, as it meant long hours in front of a computer. One of the eRYLA camp days started at 9 a.m. and ended at 10 p.m., she said.

The five-day camp involved a lot of leadership and team activities, McKelvey shared. Her favorite was a scavenger hunt in which participants had to search for and check off random items in their houses and yards.

“It was all about working with each other,” she said. One of the biggest lessons she learned during the camp was to accept help from other members of her team, she said, as she usually likes to be in control.

She hopes to one day live on the Oregon coast and was excited that many of the other eRYLA campers lived in that area and were able to share about their lives.

In addition to learning more about themselves, eRYLA allowed the campers many networking opportunities. McKelvey said she is now close friends with another girl she met during the camp.

McKelvey said she would love to attend RYLA in-person if given a chance.

She told the Lakeview Rotary Club during her presentation that her dream job is to be in law enforcement with the Bureau of Land Management.

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