Leveraging youth programs

By District Governor Elect Stephen O’Connell OAM and Rotary Youth Exchange Chair Meredith Miegel

Rotary’s youth programs offer Rotary clubs a valuable opportunity to connect with young individuals, their families, and peers, thereby demystifying Rotary and fostering community engagement. Actively involving these stakeholders in club activities amplifies Rotary’s visibility and influence across age groups.
Rather than just announcing arrivals and departures, leveraging youth programs involves regularly showcasing the vibrant experiences of Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) students on social media and news platforms. These updates feature youths immersed in diverse cultural settings, emphasising Rotary’s dedication to youth development, and serving as compelling content for public outreach.

In District 9790, the recent resurgence of RYE programs post-COVID demonstrates their resilience, with more than 50 long-term and 20 short-term students sent abroad, and 28 inbound students from 12 different countries currently hosted.

Rotary’s commitment extends beyond the exchange period, providing returning students with essential support through Rotex groups and counselling sessions, ensuring a smooth reintegration into their home environment.

Encouraging sponsor clubs to actively involve students and families deepens their understanding of Rotary’s mission within the community. By inviting them to participate in meetings and projects, clubs offer first-hand exposure to Rotary’s impact, often leading to increased membership and support. Many individuals, including past alumni, have been drawn to Rotary through RYE experiences, recognising its lasting benefits.

Involving inbound students in club activities facilitates their integration and enriches their experience by connecting them with community members who share local insights. Despite challenges during the COVID hiatus, Rotex has rebounded strongly, with former students eager to assist outbound participants.

Maintaining connections with former students ensures ongoing engagement and potential future membership. By inviting them to club events and encouraging involvement, Rotary clubs cultivate a dynamic alumni network that serves as ambassadors. Providing opportunities for students to speak at other service clubs and participate in projects further extends their influence, reinforcing Rotary’s commitment to service and community engagement.

By embracing youth programs and engaging participants and their networks, Rotary clubs strengthen their public image, build community bonds, and inspire future generations. These efforts shape Rotary’s enduring global legacy beyond individual exchanges.