Rotary Youth Leadership Awards


The Rotary Club of Summit County is proud of its work with the County’s children. It has grown over the past several years, driven by a few members who are passionate about this work. One of the most significant areas in which the Club has been involved is RYLA, Rotary's leadership training program for young people. RYLA participants can be ages 14-30, but our Club and Rotary District choose to focus on a narrower age range, 13-17. Involvement of Summit County youth in this program has been championed by Rolando Cuadrado, who has is known throughout the United States for his enthusiasm for RYLA and his commitment to the cause.


In 1959, the state government of Queensland, Australia, invited local Rotary Clubs to help plan an event to help celebrate the upcoming centennial of the state. British Princess Alexandra, who was in her early 20s was due to attend the celebrations, so activities were planned specifically for the princess's age group.

A “Gundoo”, an aboriginal word meaning "festival" or "fun together", was organized and deemed to be successful with more than 300 men and women between the ages of 17 and 23 attending. Encouraged by the event's popularity with the young attendees, Rotary saw potential to create an annual youth program based on Gundoo. The governor of then Rotary District 260, Art Brand, approved the project and on 2 May 1960, RYLA was an official Rotary project. The official framework of RYLA was defined, being “to train youth ages 14-30 in character, leadership, personal development, and good citizenship”. 


RYLA is a life-changing leadership training program for young men and women where leadership skills and principles are learned, developed and enhanced in an atmosphere of trust and respect. The purpose of RYLA is to encourage and assist current and potential youth leaders in methods of responsible and effective leadership.

RYLA emphasizes leadership, citizenship, and personal growth, and aims to:

  • Demonstrate Rotary's respect and concern for youth
  • Provide an effective training experience for selected youth and potential leaders
  • Encourage leadership of youth by youth
  • Recognize publicly young people who are rendering service to their communities

Each RYLA event is tailored to participants’ ages and interests, and should reflect community issues and be presented in a manner consistent with local customs. It is recommended that the core curriculum covers the following topics:

  • Fundamentals of leadership
  • Ethics of positive leadership
  • Importance of communication skills in effective leadership
  • Problem solving and conflict management
  • What Rotary is and what it does for the community
  • Building self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Elements of community and global citizenship

RYLA Conference for 240 participants is held at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. This conference is also referred to as Senior RYLA. Any high school sophomore or junior may apply to attend RYLA. Generally, applicants selected have excelled in one or more areas of high school involvement and have potential or proven leadership experience. Applicants MUST be able to stay for all 5 days of the conference.  Applicants are interviewed and the number of positions open to children recommended by Rotary Clubs is limited. Fees are paid by the sponsoring Rotary club, so the experience is free to students and provides a wonderful opportunity to young people during the summer vacation. It has been said that some children show up for the week full of fear and trepidation, but leave with self confidence and exuberance for life. It is a magical week for those who are lucky enough to participate. Please click here for more information, or here to start your application.

Young RYLA

Two Young RYLA Camps for 132 participants each (264 total) will be held at the Pondorosa Retreat & Conference Center in Larkspur, Colorado. Any current 7th grader may apply and enjoy this opportunity which will be specially tailored to the needs of this age group. For more information, click here.