By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Rotary Youth Leadership Awards students bond at SGSC
0715 sgsa-rylc
The Effingham County Rotary Club sponsored Alexandria Parrish, Chase Kessler and Zachary Pittman, pictured here with South Georgia State College vice president of academic affairs Robert Page, at the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. More than 70 students from around Rotary District 6920 atended the event at South Georgia State College. - photo by Photo provided

South Georgia State College was hosted some of the best and brightest high school juniors and seniors during the annual District 6920 Rotary Youth Leadership Awards weekend.

RYLA is an outreach of Rotary international where high school juniors and seniors are selected by their local Rotary Clubs to participate in a leadership retreat. South Georgia State College hosted these high schoolers at RYLA for more than 20 years.

RYLA participant Jawa Darazim of Brunswick said of the experience, “RYLA 2015 was such an exciting, memorable experience! I’ve made many new friends within three-and-a-half days… (with) a mass abundance of joy and love.”

RYLA helps foster leadership skills that these students can take back to their communities.

This year’s RYLA had more than 70 students participate from all over Rotary District 6920, the largest group in RYLA’s history at South Georgia State College. The students began the weekend on Thursday with some ice-breaker activities and group photo sessions, followed by the opening banquet, with this year’s speaker Kaleb Wilkes, senior accountant for MUST ministries in the Atlanta area and South Georgia College alumnus. He spoke about being passionate about your dreams and chasing them.

On Friday and Saturday, the students attended leadership classes, learning about the importance of customer service, the fundamentals of leadership, focusing on yourself in order to become the best leader possible, and the importance and dangers of social media.

Friday’s keynote speaker was Dr. Carl McDonald, retired vice president for academic affairs at SGSC, who spoke on choosing the right words in all situations, as words can be interpreted in any number of ways, regardless of the intent behind the words said. He noted that the English language is one of the hardest to learn as words and phrases can have multiple different meanings, so we must always be as clear and concise as possible.

Sunday morning’s speaker was Andrea Giggetts, owner of Giggetts and Associates, a human resources and training company, who spoke on the importance of customer service, how to roll with the punches, and how to always keep your head up in order to be your best self. “Stop making people a priority in your life when they’re making you an option in theirs,” she said.

RYLA is an experience that these students will take with them wherever they go. Friendships and leadership skills help join these students with a common interest. Participant Byron Gray of Savannah said of his group members, “Having a strong bond within a small amount of time is simply amazing. Thank you to my RYLA family.”

For more information on this year’s RYLA, visit For more information on Rotary Club International, contact your local Rotary Club or visit