Reprinted from Mission Times Courier by Karen Ronney:

Four local students were chosen as scholarship recipients of the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards program by Rotary District 5340.

Patrick Henry High’s Latrell Crenshaw and Julia Ronney joined Mount Miguel High’s Noemi Avenido and Gonzalo Leon as honored youth speakers, who received scholarships to attend the Rotary Youth Leadership Conference at Idyllwild Pines. The four outstanding young leaders gained valuable life skills and impressed the group of 75 Rotary Club members with their wisdom.

“It is more about changing perceptions and improving cultural understanding,” Crenshaw said. “It is actually easier for students to do that because they feel more comfortable talking to their peers.”

Students from different schools are divided into groups of 10 and each unit is a called a “family,” which then participates in activities and discussions. They also share personal feelings and life experiences.

“RYLA changed how I look at everything,” said Ronney, who was the 2015-16 Patrick Henry Junior Class vice president. “I’m definitely a different person now. I’ve learned not to judge people. In my family discussions I heard everyone has a story. Now my goal is to listen to others and have a positive impact.”

The Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) was created in 1975 for students in San Diego and Imperial counties, who were recognized for their past and present leadership and service activities. They received an all-expense paid camp where they are inspired by motivational speakers. They also make friends with other outstanding students and are assisted in becoming future leaders in their communities. The program started with about 100 participants and has grown to over 350 this year.

“We want these outstanding students to know they can have a positive impact in their individual worlds,” La Mesa Rotary president Mark Mathews said. “It just takes one person to make a difference with a kind word or gesture. This has been the best experience I’ve ever had as a Rotarian. I’ll do it again next year.”

Pictured: (l to r) Gonzalo Leon, Julia Ronney, Latrell Crenshaw, Noemi Avenido and Mark Mathews (Courtesy of Karen Ronney)