Ten Amador County eight grade students were graduated Sunday from Rotary’s Eight Grade Leadership Camp (REGL) held annually at Grizzly Creek Ranch near Portola, CA. Each year 10 students are selected by their teachers and principals to attend a three day session of classes, and outdoor activities designed to build confidence, self-esteem, and trust in others.
Amador’s four Rotary Clubs Ione, Jackson, Plymouth Foothills and Amador Upcountry pool their financial and human resources to finance and help staff this event.
Within minutes of arrival students are pair with total strangers and begin a journey of change; first talking of their favorite music, sports, dances, clothes and finally exchanging life stories. Within hours they feel confident and trusting enough to stand up in front of 100 of their peers and counselors and talk from their hearts about their fears and aspirations for the future.
Small work groups continue their training by learning to speak of issues in their lives in the first person; for example, “it hurts me if I hear someone say I’m fat”, in stead of, “it can hurt you when someone says you’re fat.”
Learning to work, together as a team, can be a challenge at any age but especially here where their coping skills are based on what they’ve seen in their environment and what has worked in adolescents. When begin preparing for the “Ropes Course” things get more serious and they learn to listen to each other and that it’s not always the biggest or loudest person that has the best solution to the problem facing them. This is one of the fundamental precepts of leadership; Objective Listening followed by debate and experimentation. Move 10 people 30’ with each foot always touching a foot to your neighbors on both sides of you. By the time they have walked a cable 20’ in the air holding on to nothing but their partner on another cable 2’ away their confidence is rewarded by descending back to the ground via a 200 yard zipline.
From 9:00 AM to just after 6:00 PM mental concentration and physical effort are followed by some strenuous dancing to “Cotton Eyed Joe” and then dinner. From 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM they were in and out of their small groups each time discussing solutions to a question proposed by the trainers. This training is intense but they get up Sunday morning and happily start all over again. What the observer sees is a metamorphosis’ in each of them that gives one hope for our future.
Graduation starts at 3:00 on Sunday and the parents are always astounded as they enter the room, to the welcoming throngs of cheers from these young leaders, who are now ready to go home and eagerly clean their rooms; because for the grace of God they have a room to clean!