RYLA 2014 Report

   Published: Monday, 2 February 2015

Campbelltown's newest RYLArians with President Frank Orlando at the Graduation Ceremony, September 2014:  Cathy Zeng, Benjamin Neale and Stephany Neale

Ben and Steph gave a comprehensive report to the club on 2 Feb 2015 of their RYLA experience.  It is reproduced here.
The red text is Steph's while the blue is from Ben.

Ben and I are really glad to be here tonight to share our experiences from RYLA. We are also forwarding apologies for our other group member Cathy Zhang, who is unable to be here to night, due to family commitments back in China. Cathy was also sponsored by Campbell town and her message to the club tonight is:  “I am really thankful to have this chance to meet so many excellent people, very inspiring and it is a shame I cannot join you” . We would like to thankyou for your sponsorship and providing us with this amazing opportunity.  As I’m sure you all know ben and I are brother and sister and yes we went to RYLA together. We are not the first siblings to RYLA together, in fact our lead director also went her brother and we all believe that it builds strong relationship between siblings and some great memories to share. It was just coincidence that we wanted to go in the same year. We both had individual experiences and both got different things out of RYLA.”


  • To give you an idea of how RYLA has applied to my life, I will just give you a little bit of background about myself.
    • I graduated Prince Alfred College in 2006. From there I went to University and studied a Bachelor of Industrial Design (hons). Part way through my degree I realised my lifelong passion for aviation and flying had pushed me towards a different career path. I decided that after I finished my degree, I was going to become a pilot. After graduating Industrial design with Honours in 2010, I promptly applied for a position in the graduate diploma in Aviation at UniSA.
    • In July 2011, I commenced my training as a pilot and by 2012 I had achieved my private pilots. At this point I started training for my commercial pilot’s licence, which involved many exams and intense study.
    • I was progressing well through my course and was nearing the end. I was starting to think about job opportunities and building a career for myself. Unfortunatly, only two weeks out from being awarded my Commercial pilots license, I collapsed at home and was taken to hospital by ambulance. There, I was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation (a condition of the heart). Although this condition was not going to kill me, it would definitely stop me from flying. I was immediately restricted from flying and to this day have not been able to take control of a full size aircraft again.
    • This was quite a blow for me as it had shattered my dreams and seemingly  undone all my hard work.
    • From here I returned to work for my dad (Jeff Neale) at Paradise motors MAZDA as a service advisor. My experience there was invaluable. I learned about business management, customer service and a lot about myself.
    • One day in 2013, a pilot friend of mine sent me a contact for a job that was going with unmanned aircraft. I have a lot of experience in Radio Controlled Aircraft and also Full size flying, so I agreed to give the job a shot.
    • Long story short, I now work for an unmanned aircraft company as the chief UAV pilot, building flying and designing drone mapping systems.
    • My job has given me many opportunities, the main one being travel. Through my job I have travelled to many parts of the world, the main highlights being New Zealand, Malaysia and South Korea. 

So….How does RYLA fit into all this??   

I didn’t know a lot about RYLA before I attended, however our Brother Matt Neale attended RYLA some years ago and had mentioned that it was a valuable experience for him. I had been offered the opportunity to attend RYLA by my dad in the past, however had never made the time. As I am 25 and it would be my last chance, I made every effort to free a week from my calendar so I could see what all the fuss was about. 

I also felt that RYLA could give me some valuable leadership skills that I could use throughout my career as well as my everyday life.

My current job requires me to be in a leadership position and I felt I could only gain from attending RYLA.  I am very glad that I made the decision as going to RYLA is one of the most valuable experiences I have ever had.

In the past I had been asked by dad if I would like to go to RYLA, this time it just felt right.

Throughout my schooling at St Peters Girls I was very involved within the school community. It felt safe, I had a nice group of friends and everyone in the school knew who I was. I was that loud chatty girl that did heaps of music.  I would put myself out there and do things that I knew I wasn’t great at, like sport, but just wanted to give them a go.

I liked to be the leader at the school. I was on the student representative council in my younger years and in year 12 I was a Prefect, School Music Captain and head chorister. I enjoyed helping and guiding the younger students and this led to my choice to become a music teacher

As I left school and moved onto the big wide world of uni, I was no longer in my comfort zone and found that it was all a bit different.  As much as I am a loud person it takes me a great deal of time to feel comfortable enough to talk to people in social situations and I can appear to be rather shy and anxious. I have tried really hard to push myself to do new things and to be more confident in myself This is perhaps why I knew that this year I wanted to do RYLA, to help improve my confidence even more.

In the near future I hope to be a successful, confident music teacher sharing my gift with students and helping to them to reach their own musical goals. To do this I require strong leadership skills, communication skills and the ability to build strong interpersonal relationships. What I had hoped to get out of RYLA was some experience and tips in some of these areas and what better way to do that than putting myself out of my comfort zone by spending 7 days with a bunch of strangers with no technology. But of course this bunch of strangers then became a new network of friends.

Now as I am sure you know The RYLA Experience is to be undertaken without your phone or laptop or any other form of communication to the outside world. Now if you are hoping for some stories about how we suffered through the week and what a difficult task that was you won’t get that from us because although we are Gen Y we were just happy to have a break from the real world. It also allowed us to focus on the speakers and become fully immersed in the whole experience by meeting and networking with new people. However we can say for sure that some of the awardees did struggle without their technology. 

Structure of RYLA

The structure of each day was more or less the same. After breakfast, each day began with a key note speaker. After lunch, groups rotated through a series of workshops run by the team leaders targeted at discussing, developing or learning specific skills. Every day at about 4 or 5pm we would get together in our small groups, reflect, evaluate and discuss the sessions for the day. This was a great time to stop and think about all the things we had done that day and slow down after an action packed schedule! 

Dinner was always an interesting event. Each group had an opportunity to set up dinner and with that came some very interesting themes and rules.  Some of these included bringing tributes for team mascots, sitting on picnic rugs on the floor, seeing who can blow the biggest bubble out of bubble gum to determine which table would eat first, speed dating and on one evening having everyone tied at the hands in pairs which made the eating part of the evening particularly difficult. Of course dinner time was also when we had our daily fines which I’m sure you are all familiar with.

My Impression of Day 1

Being a fairly shy person, just getting to RYLA was honestly a very daunting experience.  Meeting a whole bunch of new people is definitely not my strength.

As we walked in the door at Nunyara camp site, it was like being hit in the face with a fistful of energy. The leaders were excited, the awardees were excited (and nervous) and the Nunyara staff a little frightened.

Finding the dorm room was a bit of a puzzle, but it was a good ice breaker for all the Awardees. All the awardees came from a broad spectrum of backgrounds. Different cultures, races, religions and lifestyles.  I was well out of my comfort zone meeting all these new people, and it would be a few days before I felt completely comfortable at RYLA. The great thing about this camp is it encourages you to face your fears and ‘get on with it’ right from day one. 

There were a lot of new names and faces to learn but thankfully one of our first activities was to introduce ourselves and what our future goals were. We discussed that our goals had no limits and could be short or long term goals. For me my goal was to continue looking for work, even if it meant doing a few years of relief teaching. 

And for , it was to fly a plane again. 

From hearing these goals we could see that this was an amazing group of people with ambitions to do good in the world, To help others. To signify this commitment and reminder of our goals, a piece of twine was thrown around the circle. Each member would state their goal and tie twine around their wrist. You could say, it all started with a piece of string. 

Upon arrival we were each assigned to a team, I was in Blue and Ben was in Red. As part of our first team meeting, each team had to design a mascot. The red team cheated by using an elmo toy. The blue team however, had to be a little more creative. We made our mascot out of a balloon which had some rather devastating consequences.  

That evening, another activity was to write a short skit to be performed in front of the entire group after dinner. I was put into my red team with 4 other people that I didn’t know and we were required to write, rehears and deliver a skit in under one hour. This is not an easy task with people you know, let alone people you only just met. 

Never the less, we completed the task with somewhat confusion, but a lot of laughter. This activity was a quick way to learn a lot about each other and have a lot of fun doing so. I learned a lot about myself on day one alone. This gave me hope that I had made the right decision by coming to RYLA and maybe I would get something really valuable out of it. 

Ben and I both agree that our favourite speaker of the week was David Griggs. Now I personally don’t have too many issues with general talking but giving an engaging, memorable presentation confidently is a whole other story.  David Griggs presentation “Public Speaking – Speak with confidence” was exactly that; a confident, polished presentation that was both informative and very entertaining. His use of humour and comic timing was inspiring and so much of what he discussed is relevant to me in my life as a Music teacher. For example; The brain remembers firsts and lasts (So let’s just hope that ben and I and finish this presentation with something very important). Repeating important things and people will also remember things that stand out or are different. I found his ideas of how to capture people really useful and look forward to incorporating them into the classroom for my students. 

Greg Craig

Another session that I personally found helpful and encouraging was Greg Craig’s session called ‘Influencing people’. Based on the Dale Carnegie courses and principles, Greg took us through techniques and strategies that we could take away in the ‘real world’ after RYLA. For me, the most handy technique that he showed us, was a way of talking to new people. The strategy that he taught pretty well eradicated those ‘awkward silences’ that occur when meeting new people. Again as a fairly shy person, this is a skill that I can rely upon to get me out of those horrible moments and focus on what really matters, which is networking with the person I am talking to. 

Sophie Hampell was another great speaker who gave us a number of tips that focused on making a good first impression. Knowing that I would be going for job interviews in the next few months I found this presentation to be very beneficial. She also expressed the importance of focussing on your strengths and not your weaknesses in life. This to me is something that at times we all need to be reminded of.

In contrast to some of our more light hearted presentations there was one in particular that was very important and very serious. Mental health is a huge issue among our youth today. Catherine McCarthy’s presentation on how to assist people and identify those that are suffering from mental illness was informative and sadly very relevant to the profession that I am heading into. I took a lot from this session on how to help young people and as a result feel more prepared and confident when the need arises

Night Walk

One of the tasks where this was applicable for me was the night time orienteering. As someone who spends a lot of time reading maps, I was excited to demonstrate my skills. 

This is something that I would not usually do, but because I was in an environment where I felt welcome to contribute, it was easy to take charge and lead.

The task involved navigating around Belair national park, using a very simple trail map.

On the way we collected pieces to a DR Seuss poem, while all the time avoiding the drop bears and hoop snakes. Once all the pieces were collected, the team had to work together to reconstruct the poem..

Throughout the task, we rotated members of the group as leader

It was great to be able to assist and teach those who weren’t as confident at map reading. As a result, our team emerged from the park 10 minutes before any other team. 

Unfortunately our joint knowledge of Dr Seuss’s work was relatively poor and we end up in 4th place, however we were proud of how well we worked as a team to complete the task.

An evening of dancing with the Old Gum Tree-O was a real highlight and was early on in the week making it a great get to know you activity as you are continually swapping partners. Now Ben I danced with every boy in the room and I have to say Ben was pretty good. 

Thanks, I danced with all the girls and I suppose you weren’t to bad

It was such a fun night and I can assure you that we were all exhausted!

Another exhausting, and a little bit painful activity was self-defence where we learned some of the basic Taekwondo punches and kicks. 

But of all the activities the Director’s night was probably the craziest of all. A night of crazy games and stories  that ended with everyone covered in stickers on their face.  

Warm Fuzzies

Throughout the week we were encouraged to write notes to other awardees and put them in their “warm fuzzy pockets”. These are a4 envelopes that we completed on the first day, which gives key information about ourselves and our interests. We did this so when we left at the end of the week, we could take with us a pocket filled with lovely memories, letters, thoughts and notes from everyone. I still have all my warm fuzzies and it is a nice thing to be able to read them, look back and reflect. 

Nunyara conference centre was the perfect location for an event like this. From the amazing views, the great spaces that were appropriate for the activities and structure of RYLA and the friendly staff that ensured we never went to bed hungry.  It really made the week perfect.

On the last night we had our Graduation Dinner, which was held at Belair Country Club. This was an amazing night, although it hadn’t even been a week, the people we were graduating with meant so much to us and we were excited to share everything with our. The awardees were given 2 hours to prepare a presentation for the evening and we were given pretty much free choice as to what shape that would take. With 40 young leaders in the room this was somewhat of a challenge! However we all made the decision to go with a song and as the muso in the room I played a significant role in leading the group and conducting the performance on the night. It was great to see how far we had all come and how we were able to pull together a performance in such a short space of time.

Our final activity for the week was the same as our first. This time we shared what we had taken from RYLA as we tied the twine around our wrists. It all started and finished with a piece of string

As you can probably see there is so much that I have taken from RYLA but in particular I have learned that meeting new people is fun and exciting. I have so many tips to help with my confidence and my future career. A month after RYLA I had my first job interview and was successful in gaining a teaching contract at Blackfriars Priory. I know that the skills I learned will help me in this position and help me to work towards my goal of becoming a director of music or principal in the future. 

I have also taken so much away from RYLA. I don’t think RYLA necessarily changes you as a person, it does something better: It helps you to bring out the wonderful qualities that you have within. 

RYLA covers the following key outcomes 

  • the fundamentals and ethics of leadership
  • The importance of communications skills in effective leadership
  • Problem solving and conflict management
  • And Building self-confidence and self esteem ………
  • Builds networks of friends and professionals

Steph and I can safely say that we have grown in all these areas thanks to RYLA.

On behalf of Steph, Cathy and Myself I would like to extend our thanks to this rotary club for giving us the opportunity to attend RYLA, we especially thank those who were involved in organising and co-ordinating getting us to RYLA.

We hope that you will continue to Support RYLA and encourage many young people to attend. As you can see, it has been a positive influence on our lives and we both hope to serve RYLA as leaders in the near future.