by John Borst, Past President, Rotary Club of Dryden

Rotary’s commitment to youth is a long-standing tradition. Local clubs express this in many ways. Youth scholarships, RYLA, InterAct clubs, The “Adventures in “series, MUNA, Public Speaking contests, and book buying programs are all common activities.

The program that excites me the most, however, is the long-term Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE). This is a program organized by the District, in my case 5550. The exchange is at the high school level as the students are between 16-18 years of age.

In a RYE, students from countries across the World come to my community for a full year, attend school and learn a bit about Canada’s culture.  In exchange, our club sends a student to a country outside of Canada. In the seven years, I have been a Rotarian we have had students from Japan, Brazil, Spain, France, Slovakia, Finland and Sweden. Five were female and 2 male.

In Dryden, we have a competition to choose a student who we think can manage to leave home at a young age. They tend to be strong academically, full of self-confidence, articulate in their home language and outgoing. They may or may not be a relative of a Rotarian.

In-coming RYE students usually give two presentations to the club, one in September introducing them self to the club and one at the close of the program before they return to their country of origin.

Out-going students do similar talks. This year I made two videos, one of a returning Dryden student who had spent the 2016-17 school year in Denmark and the other of our 2017-18 student from Borås, Sweden.

In our District, only 17 of the 42 clubs support and participate in the RYE program.

The growth in confidence one observes over a year, is amazing.

The World needs future leaders with an understanding of our global interconnectedness. Rotary’s Youth Exchange does that. It is a program in which every club should participate.