District 5370: A leader in youth programs

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Students join discussion groups during RYLE

Today, our District has more Interact and Rotaract clubs than it does Rotary clubs.

A decade ago, that wasn’t the case. What happened? How did District 5370 become a Youth Services leader in North America?

Tamara Larson (RC of Edmonton Whyte Avenue), who has been the District’s Youth Services chair for the last three and a half years, credits 2010-11 District Governor Jackie Hobal (RC of Edmonton West) for getting the ball rolling.

“Jackie sat down and developed a strategic plan to grow youth programs in our District,” Tamara says. “At that time, we had 11 Interact clubs and one Rotaract club.”

There were 61 Rotary clubs.

Today there are 53 Interact (ages 12-18)  clubs and 10 Rotaract (18-30) clubs. That’s a total of 63 clubs for young leaders, compared to the 58 District 5370 Rotary clubs.

“The strategy was to build these clubs. Start with Interact, which would grow our Rotaract, which would ultimately grow our Rotary membership in our District,” Tamara says. 

“At RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards), we always tell Interactors that if they go to university and there is no Rotaract club, start one,” which is exactly what happened at one university this year.

“The president of the Concordia University Rotaract club was an Interact club member in Grande Prairie,” says Tamara. “She moved to Edmonton to go to Concordia. There was no Rotaract club, so she started one. It took her less than three months to get 15 people and they have done some great things.”

With a background in education, Jackie came to her role as DG with a passion for working with youth. 

“I was very aware of the demographics in Alberta, the demographics in Canada and the fact that the majority of our population was in that very young age group. If you are building for the future, and that’s what we are always thinking about in Rotary, we need to empower that particular age group.” 

“I saw the writing on the wall in terms of Rotary membership,” she says. “The decline of Rotary membership began about a year before I was governor, about 2009. People were not as excited about Rotary as they used to be and so I saw an opportunity with youth.”

Jackie feels there were two reasons that the District was successful in meeting the goals she set out in her New Generations Vision, which became the blueprint for developing youth programs in District 5370.

Screen Shot 2019-06-25 at 9.57.20 AMFirst, the District formed a partnership with the Alberta-based Servus Credit Union, which provided a grant of $250,000. The grant was spread out over three years and shared with District 5360, which includes Alberta Rotary clubs from Red Deer south.

 “That was the magic—having the flexibility of the dollars to build capacity. Those dollars were used to create events, to really beef up our RYPEN (Rotary Youth Program of Enrichment) and our RYLA. We also started RYLE, which is Rotary Youth Leadership Experience. That program has had great success.”

Making more great ideas possible

The funds from Servus Credit Union made numerous other great ideas possible. 

“Sometimes you have great ideas as Rotarians, but you don’t have the money to make it happen. We were able to bring youth to leadership events and international conventions,” Jackie says. “We sent them to Big West Rotaract in the San Francisco area, where they have huge Rotaract events that we don’t have here.”

The money also allowed the District to adapt the concept of the CBC program Dragon Den to provide opportunities for Interact groups to find money for their projects.

“We used some of the Servus Credit Union money—one year we put aside $5,000—and we said, ‘Come and pitch your project, sell us your project,’” Jackie says. “We brought some CFOs and CEOs to be judges and gave them criteria. The kids got up and pitched their projects and then [the dragons] doled out the money. It was great. The [Rotarians] really enjoyed that. I think that got clubs inspired. They could see the potential of what these youth groups could do.”

Screen Shot 2019-06-25 at 9.58.12 AMThe second component to success was having people with the passion to implement the plan.

“You need leaders and you need champions,” Jackie says. “I put a touch on Laura Morie (RC of Westlock). She became Youth chair.” 

Laura’s involvement with youth goes back to when the Westlock Rotary club hosted the orientation for inbound Youth Exchange students, which the club had done for over 30 years prior to the District taking on this task.

With the orientation off its plate, the Westlock club agreed to host RYLA for three years, beginning in 2009.

Giving youth a voice

“We decided that what we really needed was for these kids to have something that was a little more experiential than sitting in a room and having different people come and talk to them,” Laura says. “We figured that enlisting the help of the kids who had previously had the experience, from one year to the next, was going to be a path to success because with kids the voices of other kids resonate.”

Listening to youth led to the creation of the District Youth Council, which meant “kids had a voice,” Laura says. “They had influence. The assisted in creating programming for RYPEN and RYLA.”

Tamara, who succeeded Laura as Youth Services chair when Laura became District Governor in 2016-17, now chairs the Youth Council.

“The committee is comprised of Rotarians, Rotaract members and Interact members. We have Rotaract and Interact members in chair positions when it comes to RYLA, RYLE and RYPEN,” Tamara says. 

“This council drives our short-term and long-term youth programs. It allows young people to have a voice in where these are going and what is most effective. They have a very large voice in the future of youth programs within the District.” 

One of Laura’s first actions as Youth Services chair was to find out what Rotary clubs were doing related to youth programming.

“We did a District-wide survey of all the clubs, asking them to tell us what they were looking for and how much resources (money and effort) they put into their youth programs and we got this amazing picture of what was going on in the District, from scholarships to commitments to sending kids off, be it on an exchange or adventure trips or RYLA or RYPEN,” she says. 

Youth Services become part of presidents-elect training

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Concordia University Rotaract club receives its charter from 2018-19 DG Ingrid Neitsch

Growing youth programs required the support of clubs, so Jackie ensured that information about youth programs was part of the training incoming club leaders received. 

“I had been part of the training team for many years in our District and I made sure that became an essential part of training of presidents-elect and club leaders,” Jackie says. “Clubs sponsor Interact and Rotaract clubs and we have seen that grow exponentially, more so than in any other district in our combined zones, Zone 24 and Zone 32. My guess is we have more active youth leaders than any of those districts.”

Part of the strategy was to encourage Rotary clubs to send students to RYLA events.

“We thought we should use the RYLA program as way to help clubs kickstart Interact clubs. If clubs would commit to sending three participants to RYLA, what would happen would be a lot like what happens at our District learning sessions,” Laura says. “If you have two or three people who go back with a consistent message, they are not a lone voice in the wilderness. We figured out how to get kids from RYLA to start Interact clubs and we trained their advisors to support them.”

When they graduate from high school and go on to post-secondary institutions, some former Interactors look to become involved in Rotaract clubs.

Laura recalls attending a University of Alberta Rotaract fundraiser about five or six years after she was first involved with Youth Services, as an amazing moment.

Screen Shot 2019-06-25 at 9.58.52 AM“The U of A Rotaract had about 90 members and when I walked in the room at least half of the members of the Rotaract club were kids that had been through RYLE, had joined Interact and now they were Rotaractors. There were kids from Yellowknife and Peace River and Grande Prairie and Camrose and they had found and built their community in the Rotaract club and they had built-in mentors because many of them had attended RYLE and some of their counsellors who were putting on the program were university students. When these kids got there, they already had friends.”

What has happened in our District over the past decade has made it a leader in North America in terms of Youth Services.

You get out east, to the east coast and down into the U.S., and they don’t have a lot of Rotaract clubs. They don’t have Interact clubs,” Tamara says.

“Why is it that way in other districts? I can’t say, but I have been approached by two other districts to help them build their youth programs and maybe do workshops and things like that.”

Maybe someday those districts will also have more youth clubs than Rotary clubs.

Leadership Assembly will prepare leaders to “Be the Inspiration” for their clubs

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In planning the District 5370 Leadership Assembly, Donna Barrett (RC of Edmonton Sunrise) and her learning and development team have woven the 2019-2019 Rotary International theme and priorities into all aspects of the event.

“The 2018-2019 theme will be central to the keynotes and to how the breakout sessions are organized,” Donna says.

“[District Governor-elect Ingrid Neitsch] will be sharing the theme and the keynote speakers will help convey this message.”

Rotary International President-elect Barry Rassin (RC of East Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas) revealed the theme, “Be the Inspiration,” to incoming district governors during RI’s Assembly in San Diego, in January.

“I want you to inspire in your clubs, your Rotarians, that desire for something greater. The drive to do more, to be more, to create something that will live beyond each of us,” he told the district governors-elect.

“Together, we see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change — across the globe, in our communities and in ourselves.”

He asked the incoming district governors to “inspire the club presidents and the Rotarians in your districts to want to change, to want to do more, to want to reach their own potential.”

Click here to watch the RI President-elect’s presentations at the Assembly in January.

T1819EN_RGBDonna says the assembly will provide “incoming leaders with the tools they need to ‘Be the Inspiration’ for their clubs.”

The assembly will be held April 6 and 7 at the Chateau Louis Hotel and Conference Centre, 11727 Kingsway in Edmonton, and will offer something for every Rotarian.

“There is something in the assembly for current leaders, incoming leaders and other Rotarians who want to learn more about Rotary,” Donna says.

“The leadership assemblies are planned to provide motivation, current information, support, opportunities to learn, and to share ideas and strategies to prepare presidents-elect, other club officers and members to have a successful year,” DGE Ingrid says.

“The leadership assembly is also an opportunity to form friendships and networks that support and enhance our relationships. There exists a splendid synergy when like-minded leaders collaborate on making a difference in our communities.”

To encourage participation, the District is offering several attractive registration packages, which provide reduced fees when several Rotarians from a club register as a group. When five Rotarians from one club, including the president-elect, register together their cost will only be $450. If five Rotarians, not including the president-elect, register as a group, the fee is $600.

Individual registrations are $150.

There is a separate fee of $35 per person for Friday evening’s Mix and Mingle.

Click here for additional information and to register.

This spring’s program builds on the Leadership Assembly held in the fall, which received praise from participants.

“The feedback from participants at the fall learning assembly is that it was one of the best learning and development assemblies they had ever attended,” Donna says.

Rotary Peace Fellow will speak about the “Magic of our Foundation” Friday evening

The assembly will kick off at 6 p.m., Friday evening, with what Donna promises will be a mix of fun and information. Following a mix-and-mingle networking reception, which offers a light buffet supper, a no-host bar and entertainment, Rotarians will have the opportunity to hear from the first of two Rotary Peace Fellowship alumni scheduled to speak during the assembly.

Summer Lewis, who also spoke at the RI assembly in January, is currently the Rotary Institute for Peace Partnership Co-ordinator. The topic of her presentation is the Magic of our Foundation.

The Rotary Foundation supports Peace Fellows, paying all the participants’ expenses, including tuition and fees, room and board, round-trip transportation and internship/field study expenses.

Saturday morning, DGE Ingrid will share the RI theme and three priorities for 2018-2019:

  • Support and strengthen clubs
  • Focus and increase humanitarian service
  • Enhance public image and awareness

Ingrid will be followed by keynote presentations from two co-ordinators for RI Zone 24.

Zone Co-ordiantors will focus on Membership and Public Image during Saturday morning keynotes

Assistant Co-ordinator (Membership) Denis Boyd will build on what happened at the fall assembly. He will share strategies to strengthen membership and look at the club culture. Public Image Co-ordinator Sean Hogan will focus on ways to enhance Rotary’s public image. He will suggest techniques that can be used to share what Rotary is doing.

Following the keynote sessions, there will be more breakout sessions than have ever been offered at a District 5370 assembly. Some will be specifically for presidents-elect, treasurers and secretaries.

In their session, Ingrid will ask presidents-elect to set one goal for each of RI’s three 2018-2019 priorities.

All the other sessions are open to all Rotarians. Topics include membership, the Rotary Foundation, youth, club culture/public image, liability, the Rotary Employment Partnership, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission and the Emmanuel Foundation, which partners with Rotary to arrange humanitarian shipments to other countries.

The day will conclude with a second Rotary Peace Fellowship presenter. John Lamming, who was working with the RCMP in Grande Prairie when he was selected as Peace Fellow, has entitled his presentation, Adventures in Peace.

Rotary Peace Fellowships prepare young leaders to assume peace-building roles

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John Lamming feels that what best prepared him for the year he spent training local police officers in Ukraine was the three months he spent in Thailand in 2013 on a Rotary Peace Fellowship.

Reflecting on that experience, John says that, “The biggest impact was how I was able to apply the skills I learned while I was in the Ukraine.”

The 11-year member of the RCMP was stationed in Grande Prairie when a friend who was a Rotarian encouraged him to apply for the Rotary Peace Fellowship.

District Governor-elect Ingrid Neitsch (RC of Edmonton West) hopes others will follow that Rotarian’s example and approach non-Rotarians who are committed to peace and to conflict prevention and resolution, to apply. She feels it’s important that District 5370 endorse at least one application for the Rotary Peace Fellowship before this year’s deadline.

“I believe that in the midst of the unrest and turmoil apparent in the world, Rotarians are needed as change-makers/peace-makers, through positive examples in projects in local communities and around the world,” Ingrid says.

“Supporting the Peace Fellowship program is an important part, because we are preparing young leaders who will work in peace-building roles throughout the world.”

On its website, Rotary International states that, “the Rotary Peace Centers program develops leaders, who become catalysts for peace and conflict prevention and resolution in their communities and around the world.”

It adds that, “Peace fellowship alumni serve as leaders in government, nongovernmental organizations, the military, law enforcement, education, humanitarian action, restorative justice, and international organizations.”

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The deadline for completing the online application form is May 31. To move the process to the next stage, applicants must request endorsement from a Rotary district before July 1.

John was part of a group of 19 participants from several countries in the three-month professional development certificate program at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand.

Chulalongkorn University is one of the Rotary Peace Centre university partners and the only one that offers a three-month professional development certificate.

The other universities, which are in Australia, England, Japan, Sweden and the United States, offer 15-to-24-month master’s programs. These include a two-to-three-month self-designed, applied field experience and require a final thesis.

Working with people from different cultures

John says “the value-added was that it brought together people from different cultures and we were forced to work together for three months. We could share our experiences from our different cultural perspectives.”

His classmates included people from Nigeria, Argentina, Spain, the Netherlands, Palestine, Australia, Laos and India.

He credits the experience for changing how he views international projects. “Canadians go to help, but that does not necessarily mean we know what is best. Sometimes what we think is best is not the best approach,” he says. “We need to analyze the need from the perspective of the people we work with.”

Each year, up to 50 fellowships for master’s degrees and 50 for professional development certificates are awarded to non-Rotarians worldwide.

The Rotary Peace Fellowship includes tuition and fees, room and board, round-trip transportation and internship/field study expenses.

Unlike the Global Grant Scholarship, which requires some club and district support, the Peace Fellowship is fully funded by the Rotary Foundation.

To be eligible to receive a fellowship for the master’s program, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent and have three years of full-time related work experience. For the certificate program, they need to demonstrate a strong academic background, plus have five years of full-time related work experience.

The RI website provides this explanation of the work-experience requirement:

“Relevant experience varies depending on your area of expertise and focus. It could be directly related to peace-building or conflict resolution. It can also be work in other areas such as resource and environmental issues, education and literacy, women’s rights, journalism, public health, and disease prevention, among others. International experience, working with a nonprofit or multilateral institution, working in a developing country, working with youth, or volunteer work are also considered relevant experience.”

Applicants also must have excellent leadership skills and be proficient in English. A second language is strongly recommended for those wishing to enter the master’s program.

John will share his experience as a Rotary Peace Fellow as the final speaker at the Spring Leadership Assembly in Edmonton on Saturday, April 7. Another Peace Fellowship alumni, Summer Lewis, will speak on Friday evening, April 6.

Further information can be obtained from District Governor-Elect Ingrid Neitsch, ingrid.neitsch@gmail.com or Dean Wood, the chair of the Rotary Foundation Scholarship Committee, dean.wood@shaw.ca.

Leadership will be the theme of the District 5370’s Fall Assembly

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District 5370 Learning and Development chair Donna Barrett (RC of Edmonton Sunrise) promises that when you leave the Fall Leadership Assembly you will have tools you can begin to use immediately, both in your club leadership role and professionally.

The assembly will be held at the Chateau Louis Conference Centre, 11727 Kingsway, in Edmonton, beginning Friday evening, Nov. 3, and continuing Saturday, Nov. 4.

“Leadership is important in Rotary, but what participants will learn will also be beneficial beyond Rotary,” Donna says. “What they learn can be applied anywhere—in their club and in their professions.”

The target audience for the assembly is current club leaders and those aspiring to leadership roles in the future. There will be sessions specifically geared to presidents and presidents-elect, secretaries, treasurers, Foundation, youth and membership chairs, but most of these sessions are open to all Rotarians.

Click here to register for the assembly. Call the Chateau Louis (780-452-7770) to book your room. Let them know you are attending Rotary’s Fall Leadership Assembly to get the great Rotary rate.

Donna says that both current club leaders and future leaders should attend. “Presidents will learn skills to help them in their current roles,” she said.

Donna emphasizes that presidents-elect are expected to attend as part of their preparation for the 2018-19 Rotary year. “It’s critical for presidents-elect to begin the process of getting ready for their important role. This weekend’s program will provide detailed guidance, so they will ready to start in their new role on July 1.

“President and presidents-elect can work as a team to plan for 2018-19 so that they can build on what the club is already doing.”

Presidents-elect and other club leaders will be invited to another learning event in the spring, on April 6 and 7, when the emphasis will be on preparing for the next Rotary year.

“The fall session will focus generally on leadership and the timelines that presidents-elect need to know for their planning,” Donna says. “In the spring, we will go more in-depth, so planning can be complete by the beginning of July. There will be an opportunity to learn from people who have done the role and to network with other presidents-elect.”

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Steve Linkenbrink (RC of Bellevue Breakfast) is a co-presenter for the Priority #1 Plus workshop

A highlight of the fall assembly will be Saturday morning’s Priority #1 Plus workshop. “This informative workshop is focused on strengthening your club’s culture in a systematic way,” Donna says.

She knows of what she speaks. Donna and District Governor-Elect Ingrid Neitsch (RC of Edmonton West) both travelled to Winnipeg to experience this program first-hand before bringing it to District 5370.

“We wanted to experience it before bringing it here,” Donna says. “I thought it was outstanding. So practical.”

Steve Linkenbrink and Wendi Fischer will lead the workshop. Both are members of the Bellevue (WA) Breakfast Rotary Club. Steve is a Past District Governor for District 5030 (Seattle area) and currently serves as the Zone 25/26 membership chair. Wendi is membership chair for District 5030.

Donna says they will lead participants “through a dynamic process to assess club culture and learn practical ways to strengthen and enhance the club experience for all members.”

Wendi Fischer

Wendi Fischer (RC of Bellevue Breakfast) is a co-presenter for the Priority #1 Plus workshop

Rotary International is supporting their attendance at the assembly, reflecting the organization’s commitment to strengthen membership by strengthening the club experience. The Priority #1 Plus program is based on research by RI to discover why people join Rotary and why they continue to be Rotarians.

Donna says, “There is so much information that you could spend a year implementing these strategies. These are not ideas that will disappear as soon as you leave the workshop.”

During Priority #1 Plus, participants will be introduced to simple tools they can adopt to immediately improve the Rotary brand experience to attract and retain members. Much of this information will be included in the workbook participants will receive. Afterwards, it will become a reference they can consult when they use these techniques with members of their club.

The weekend will begin Friday evening with a mix-and-mingle networking reception, which replaces the dinner held in previous years.

“We felt that this format would provide better opportunities to network before the speaker takes the stage. There can be more free flow of conversation than over dinner,” Donna says, but she adds that there will be “sufficient food, so it will be like a dinner.”

Friday evening’s speaker is PDG Mark Starratt (District 5360), who will share his insights into the important role Rotarians play as community and global leaders.

Saturday afternoon will be dedicated to role-specific sessions for presidents and presidents-elect, The Rotary Foundation (open to all), secretaries, treasurers, Youth Services (open to all), membership (open to all) and technology (open to all).

During the closing plenary session, Lisa Grotkowski and PDG Chris Offer will share inspirational stories on Leadership for Peace.

Click here to register for the Fall Leadership Assembly. Then pick up the phone, dial 780-452-7770 and tell the nice people at the Chateau Louis you need a room because you are attending Rotary’s Fall Leadership Assembly. They have a great rate just for Rotarians.

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Register for the 2018 District Conference before November 4, 2017 to save $75.