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Regional Youth Leadership Academy
The Regional Youth Leadership Academy (RYLA) is a leadership and civic engagement program for 8th graders in western Kentucky. The first class of RYLA student leaders began their work in the spring of 2013. They met to learn about Project Citizen, RYLA’s vehicle for leadership and public policy change. Project Citizen is an international civic education program tailored to the interests and needs of young adolescents and it is currently in use far beyond the US from Russia to Mexico to the Czech Republic to Israel. This program promotes attention to national and international events shaping history and empowers students to identify a need and take steps towards the betterment of their communities. Each team of student leaders chooses a public policy issue to tackle, creates a visual presentation of their research and then competes in a summer project exhibition before graduation.
RYLA student leaders take quarterly field trips to key locations that contribute to the cultural fabric of western Kentucky. The fieldtrips are based on student interest. These trips educate students about counties beyond their own, about current issues facing their state, nation and world and open their eyes to possibility for positive change in their future. The first cohort of students will graduate in the summer of 2014 after their public Project Citizen presentation. One group will become the first ever RYLA champion and receive prizes and incentives. This program will put western Kentucky on the map in a way that’s never been done before.
In the fall of 2012, community leadersfrom Hickman, Fulton, Calloway and McCracken Counties and beyond identified the need for a united force of advocates for high quality of life. Advocates identified themselves and others for participation through the evolution of the program. Planning members scoured western Kentucky for existing leadership programs, ensuring leadership efforts in the 18-county Murray State coverage region were not duplicated. After consulting superintendents, principals, counselors, business leaders, parents and community members, the Regional Youth Leadership Academy came to life. Instead of the adult business community,young people surfaced as the natural leaders for this endeavor. And what a change these 8th graders can make. Check out photos from the Regional Youth Leadership Academy event held at Pennyrile State Park July 13, 2013!
The RYLA is sponsored by K12Connect, an initiative of Murray State University's Office of the President.