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ROTARY CLUB NEWS: Students attend Rotary Youth Leadership Academy

July 27, 2017
By GINA JADWISIAK - Lake Placid Rotary Club , Lake Placid News

Three students from the Lake Placid and Saranac Lake high schools joined 22 other junior and senior high school students for the Rotary Youth Leadership Academy held June 24-26 at Paul Smith's College.

Due to concerns from Canadian clubs regarding the recent U.S. border policies, attendance this year was lower than normal. In the past, the event has attracted more than 40 students.

For the past five years, the Lake Placid Rotary Club has sponsored this life-changing leadership event, which draws Canadian and U.S. youth from Rotary District 7040, covering Rotary clubs in eastern Ontario, western Quebec, Nunavut and northern New York.

Article Photos

Student attendees of the Rotary Youth Leadership Academy, held June 24-26 at Paul Smith’s College, pose for a photo.
(Photo provided)

Youth services and leadership development comprises a fundamental part of Rotary.

RYLA identifies students with leadership potential and helps them expand self-awareness, their skill sets and their community. The event aims to empower students to step up and take an active role in creating a world they want for the future.

Local Rotary club chapters nominate delegates and offer a full scholarship to attend. This year, the local students chosen were Stetson Craig of the Lake Placid Central High School and Danielle Gonyea, Margaret Carpenter and Sam Branch of the Saranac Lake High School.

The three-day event included a variety of motivational speakers, hands-on projects and problem-solving activities.

Paul Smith's College President Cathy Dove and Bill Barnes, Lake Placid Rotary Club 2016/17 president, kicked off the weekend with a welcome address. Jordanna Mallach, a major in the National Guard and special programs coordinator for New York State Division of Veterans Affairs, spoke on qualities of leadership. She shared how her military experience shaped her to lead.

Marci Wenn, LCSW-R, counselor at the Saranac Lake High School, led students in a yoga and soul collage session. She discussed a leader's need to decompress and look inward. Teamwork and quick thinking through improvisation with Dan Barnes was a highlight for the students.

Carolyn Bordonaro, meetings and event manager at the Hotel Saranac, addressed the importance of personal branding and how best to portray your presence on the internet.

Chandler Ralph, the former CEO of Adirondack Health and Lake Placid Rotary Club member, inspired students with a project near and dear to her heart, the Helena Ptochia Foundation. Its mission is to raise capital funds to build and operate a hospital for Ghanaian women injured in childbirth.

A highlight was the more active side of their leadership experience, which included a ropes course, rock-climbing, swimming and hiking.

Past RYLA participant Patrick Quinn, Sean Dory and Lake Placid High School environmental science teacher Tammy Morgan presented on the Youth Climate Summit and the Carbon Neutral Project.

RYLA students identified topics in their community they felt needed attention. Working in teams, they learned problem-solving skills, developed strategies for change, and received feedback on how to present effectively.

The seminar concluded at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, where Betsy Lowe shared how a personal loss ignited the idea for the Wild Center.

Each RYLA group presented in a "Shark Tank" style their community projects, which addressed Enhancing Recreational Opportunities for High School Youth, Lack of Community Engagement, Student Impact on School Life, Academic Pressure and Student's Involvement in School Spending.

An awards ceremony concluded the event.

The Lake Placid Rotary Club meets every Thursday morning from 7:20 to 8:30 a.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott. All are welcome. For more information, visit



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