By: Amy Miller, South Berwick-Eliot RC
From left to right:  Emily Rumble (RYLA Co-Director and MHS Interact Advisor), James Foss, Chloe Walker and Lana Emery (3 of the 5 MHS students who attended RYLA this June)
Three of the five Marshwood students who went to the RYLA camp this summer in Raymond, Maine, came to the South Berwick-Eliot Rotary Club this week to talk about their experiences. Chloe Walker, James Foss and Lana Emery were accompanied by the camp director Emily Rumble, an English teacher at Marshwood High who also leads the Interact Club and RYLA Senior Staff Assistant Bridget, who lives in York and is a RYLA leader, was also there.
A very enthusiastic Emily talked about how she began as a camper and has been involved with RYLA - the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards - almost half her life. She thanked the club for investing in campers and noted what a big impact the four-day leadership program has on them. “For you to say I believe in you, I want to invest in you” is significant, she said. Emily noted that campers go back to school and talk about their experiences, which helps the camp program.

The camp did not run in 2020 or 2021 and was not back to full speed until this year, Emily said. “It was great to have a normal year this year where we weren’t really pushing schools to give us kids,” she said, noting the RYLA theme this year was “Here we grow.”  The camp takes place the last week in June at a Boy Scout camp called Camp Hines, which this year added some new elements, or features, including an escape room.

“It is life-changing and transformative,” she said, adding, “you are not the same person you once were” after going to RYLA camp. “Every day you learn a little more and feel the friction of growing. You realize what you are truly capable of. By day four you are running the show and by the end the staff/camper dynamic shifts.”

Each of the campers told the club a bit about what the camp meant to them.

Chloe said it was the best part of her summer and that everyone was very supportive. She was not expecting the physical aspects of the camp, the strength that would be needed. She noted that she became “very vulnerable” with her group and that made it hard to leave them. She talked about things she doesn’t remember talking about to anyone since preschool. “It’s interesting how you open up to people you may never see again,” she said.

Lana also described how her group “got very close very quickly.” Some of the exercises pushed them to be close even the first day and “by the last day people were definitely crying. No one wanted to leave." Now they are planning to meet with these people again.


James said the camp helped him redefine the meaning of leadership. “For me and a lot of people the idea of leadership sparks the idea of a single person telling a group what to do, but by the end we realized even if it’s a small effort like voicing your own opinion, everyone has a part in leadership.”

The campers agreed they will take their camp experience back to their outside lives .

“RYLA is its own world, but it does start a spark and it definitely translates back to individual communities,” Lana said.

“I’m really excited to go back and now that I’m an upperclassman maybe get to help some upcoming freshman or be a leader in a new way as one of the older people in the school,” she said.

And James, who will be a student representative on the school board, said “the skills I’ve learned like advocacy will help me. Overall, I think I will be able to apply these skills."

Part of the beauty of the camp, Bridget said, is how it creates an “even playing field and gives campers more room to decide who they want to be and what that looks like. It’s a place where you decide where you want to go and own your own path.”