Posted by Craig Gillis, District 5020 Governor on May 03, 2019
Youth---truly our treasure and our future!   How fitting that Rotary designates a calendar month to Youth Services!   A survey of all Rotarians would likely reveal that many join or remain in the ‘family of Rotary’ because of its advocacy for youth programs.   That is my story.   As a teacher the Rotary imprint was so evident in our schools and community.   Leadership, literacy, and scholarship programs flourish because of Rotary’s partnership.  As a parent I felt so fortunate that our son could experience that rare gift of youth exchange----a year of language, culture, and deeper world understanding.   Every club in our district in some way promotes opportunities for youth to learn, to connect, and to become leaders---ultimately to become who they can be!
Thank you to our Youth Services Chair, Michele Doyle, for continuing a strong tradition of guidance and support for youth programs such as Rotaract, Interact, and RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards).   We welcomed two new Interact Clubs this year:  Elih Hill (sponsored by Sumner Rotary) and Ladysmith (sponsored by Ladysmith Rotary).  We now have over 50 Interact clubs in our District!   In January we chartered the Rotaract Club of Centralia College---our fourth Rotaract Club---a great example of partnership sponsored by the Rotary clubs of Centralia, Chehalis, and Twin Cities.     RYLA Northwest drew together over 80 of our students and RYLA Vancouver Island over 40 students who were motivated and inspired by guest speakers and a host of leadership activities to be shared in home communities.   Our RYLA representatives Karrisa Thompson (Puyallup Rotary) and Joan Ryan (Nanaimo Rotary) served our students well!
We are very proud of our longstanding Youth Exchange program.  Chair, Ron Fisher, and a devoted district Youth Exchange Committee past and present have made the program vital to District 5020.   At District Conference you will meet 28 successful inbound students from 24 countries…soon ready to depart for home enriched by a year full of incredible memories.   This year our clubs sponsored 25 students outbound students to over 20 countries.   Next year 26 students have been selected to represent District 5020.  Yes, many students in adulthood return to their host families and Rotary communities to visit and reconnect because of lifelong ties established during the exchange year.   These students are our ‘peace ambassadors’.  Thank you to those Rotary clubs who open their homes and hearts!
Whatever you do to support youth programs…..a sincere thank you.   Annually our Rotary clubs in District 5020 offer close to $1 000 000 in scholarships,  invite hundreds of Students of the Month to club meetings, engage in countless literacy projects that support reading, and create a myriad of leadership opportunities that prepare students to take initiative and assume responsibility. Our youth infuse our world with a sense of possibility.  Thank you for recognizing an investment in our youth as an investment in our future.  Students so very naturally know how to “Be the Inspiration”….and demonstrate how “Rotary Connects the World”. 
DG Craig


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