Youth Service - The 5th Avenue of Service in Rotary

Youth Services, has been officially recognized as the Fifth Avenue of Service by Rotary International. This formal action was taken in Chicago during the April 2010 meeting of the Council on Legislation, the legislative arm of Rotary International which meets every three years.

District 5190 has a long tradition of outstanding service in the area of youth services with great support and forward thinking from District leaders, and the news was welcomed with excitement and enthusiasm by District 5190 Rotarians.

Youth Service programs include all our Rotary service programs for young people up to the age of 30. In our District, these include the RI Programs of Rotaract, Interact, RYE, and RYLA, along with a large number of other projects done at the club level. Youth Protection is another important Youth Service  resource available to Rotarians, clubs and youth programs at the District level.

So, why are Youth Service programs so important that they have now been recognized internationally?

We often hear that our youth is our future. This is certainly true and one of the reasons that we focus on literacy, leadership training, and expanding training in ethics for young people. These are the people who will be running our country and our world within the next 20 years.

Rotarians have always taken a sincere interest in helping to prepare the next generation-with programs and projects that help with health and education, and lead the way to world peace and understanding. Beyond this fact, young people are also the future of our organization if we choose for Rotary to survive and thrive beyond our lifetime. Through our Rotary youth programs, we have the opportunity to not only provide service that is the keystone of our organization, but also to develop relationships and provide exposure to our wonderful organization and the ideals of "service above self" to the next generation.

To briefly review our District's youth programs:

Interact is a Rotary sponsored club for ages 12 to 18, typically at a high school or middle school, although it is not limited to a single school. We currently have 16 Interact clubs in our District. Interact clubs are also involved in community, campus and international service projects. (The ages for Interact were changed early in 2010 from 14 years of age as the youngest, to 12 years of age.)

Rotary Youth Exchange, or RYE is the leading international student exchange program in the world, and our District sends about 30 students out to foreign countries each year, and also hosts about 30 students from around the globe to spend a year of high school in our communities. New Generations Exchange is another cultural exchange program for students beyond high school, for a shorter term exchange experience abroad.
REGL, The purpose of REGL is a weekend camp, that provides high quality leadership training with a strong emphasis on ethics to selected 8th grade students who have demonstrated leadership skills. Our aim is to provide these selected students with tools for the difficult choices that they face as they move into high school. In teams of 5 students, selected by the principal of the school, they learn to work together, highlighting each ones strengths and weaknesses to create a successful project when they return to school. 

RYLA, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, in our District, is a premium weeklong leadership camp for high school juniors offered in two sessions in June. We coordinate with District 5180 (Sacramento and surrounding areas) in RYLA to increase the diversity of the students participating in the camp. Every club in our District is encouraged to send at least one high school junior from their local community to benefit from the "life changing experience" offered at RYLA.

Youth Service also includes the many projects that individual clubs undertake to serve young people in our communities-such projects as the Dictionary Project, other reading and literacy projects, scholarship programs, and middle school projects, to name just a few.

Youth Service intersects the Vocational Avenue of Service in such programs as Career Coaching, Speech and Music Contests, and the Ethics Initiative.

We even have a Fellowship of Scouting Rotarians Chair in District 5190.

You can tell that there is a wide range of programs and projects included under the Youth Service umbrella. Virtually every club in our District in involved in one or more of these youth programs, for the benefit of their community.

Beginning in 2010, it is recommended that each club appoint a Youth Service Chair to serve at the club level. In smaller clubs, this may be a person who is already the club RYLA chair, or who is involved in RYE or Interact. In a larger club, or a larger community, this may be a person who does not currently serve on one of the youth committees, but has the ability to help communicate and coordinate between the youth programs for the benefit to all, can help recruit club members to service in Youth Service, helps to develop and maintain long term relationship with schools in your community, and works with other club leaders to coordinate overlap in the Avenues of Service to maximize each club's service opportunities.

The Youth Service Chair should be one of your current or incoming board members, or at a minimum, be a person who will report to the board on a regular basis to keep you and your board up to date on financial and other commitments needed to support your club's youth programs.

There are many District resources available to help you and your club with respect to Youth Service. Please contact any of the District Chairs listed on the District website for assistance. 



Bob Stewart 
Rotary Club of Reno South