Rotary History: Rotary’s Work with Youth

The history of Rotary's work with youth dates back to the 1920s, when many clubs took part in an international event known as Boys' Week.

The first Boys' Week was held in New York City in May 1920 by the Rotary Club of New York and other local organizations. The event was part of an effort to promote youth development in the areas of education, citizenship, health and hygiene, and vocation.

New York club members reported on the success of Boys' Week at the 1920 Rotary convention, hoping that it would become part of the Boys' Work program, which Rotary had established several years earlier with the creation of the Committee on Work among the Boys (later known as the Boys' Work Committee). The program encouraged Rotary clubs to work with other community initiatives and organizations to counter juvenile delinquency, truancy, and poor physical health, with the goal of developing good citizens.

Boys' Week events quickly spread throughout the world. By the mid-1920s, they were being held in almost 600 locations across 25 countries. In 1928, the number of participating cities and towns had grown to about 3,000.

The target audience also grew rapidly. Girls rode on the float sponsored by the Rotary Club of Vicksburg, Mississippi, in a 1924 Loyalty Day parade held in conjunction with Boys' Week.

By the late 1920s, the United States had established a National Boys' Week Committee, in which Rotary participated. Rotary clubs were encouraged to support their local Boys' Week events as a way to achieve the goals of the Boys' Work program.

In 1934, Boys' Week became known as Youth Week, and in 1936, Boys and Girls' Week.

The RI Board of Directors voted to discontinue Rotary's official sponsorship of Boys and Girls' Week in 1956 in order to support new youth efforts, but it encouraged clubs to continue participating in local youth service initiatives.

Rotary went on to create other programs for young people in the following decades, including Interact, Rotaract, and Rotary Youth Exchange.

In 2010, New Generations Service became Rotary's fifth Avenue of Service. Rotarians recognize the positive change that youth and young adults implement through leadership development activities, community and international service projects, and exchange programs that enrich and foster world peace and cultural understanding.