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Roseville Rotary makes big investments in youth leadership

By: Scott Thomas Anderson, Editor
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Thanks to a special grant, Roseville’s Rotarians will be able to send 10 students to a camp that local teenagers have dubbed “a life changing experience.”

Rotary International says its main purpose — spread amongst 34,000 clubs and 1.2 million members — is to improve the world by setting service above personal gains. For Roseville’s chapter, that means encouraging the same values in future generations. One way local Rotarians have fostered community-mindedness in teens is by sending two high school juniors each year to the Northern California and Nevada Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Camp, set in a serene, wooded landscape near Portola. 

Roseville Rotarian Allen Archuleta started the club’s Oct. 18 meeting by describing the importance of sending teenagers to attend.

“It helps teens find the leader within themselves,” Archuleta said of the camp, which runs teens through obstacle courses, self-analytic exercises, team building tasks and gatherings of camaraderie. “It helps them break their own barriers … it allows them to talk to each other and build each other up in a positive environment.”

He added that the activities of the camp culminate with the teens assembling and giving free bicycles to underserved children from a local Boys and Girls Club.

Last year, then-junior Amanda Wallace of Adelante High School and then-junior Joey Zablocki of Oakmont High School were both sponsored by Roseville Rotary to attend the camp. Now seniors involved with the Interact Club at their schools, Wallace and Zablocki told the city’s Rotarians what the trip meant to them.

“It was an absolutely life changing experience,” Zablocki said. “I know that’s really easy to say, but when you bring what you learned back with you, that’s the result  … I went through a process of change at the camp. It’s hard to explain, but what I learned applies throughout every element of my life … I know that confidence is a big part of being a leader, but now perseverance is what really stands out.”

Wallace recounted an emotionally wrenching exercise at the camp in which students had to embody two “villains” that represented elements of themselves that torn down their own self esteem.

“There were at least one or two people crying every night,” she said, “because what you’re learning touches you. The exercise about the villains, and just hearing the hurtful things people tell themselves, was something that brought up a lot of tears.”

She also told the crowd, “One thing I really discovered is part of leading is learning to let other people lead sometimes, too.”

As Rotarians listened to the testimonies, they were pleased that a new grant will allow them to send 10 local students next year to the same camp Wallace and Zablocki were talking about.

One of the Rotarians looking on during the presentation was Brian Gladden, who had been highly involved in the Interact Club as a teen. Gladden ultimately won a Rotary ambassador scholarship that allowed him to get his master’s degree abroad at any university he wanted in the world. He settled on England. Gladden later told the Press Tribune that the Interact Club had been a strong influence in his life. 

Another person to speak to that point during the meeting was Katie Palatinus, a teacher at Adelante High School who supervises its Interact Club.

“I’ve seen that after students go through this program, there’s a clear change in how they act on campus and how they try to relate to their fellow students,” Palatinus said. “Students like Amanda carry themselves in a different way — they all do.”   

Scott Thomas Anderson can be reached at scotta@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at ScottA_RsvPT.