Q&A: 2012 SMHS Grad, Ryan Kennelly


Ryan Kennelly, a 2012 graduate of St. Maries High School, was recently featured in the St. Maries Gazette Record. Ryan is a sophomore at the University of Idaho, and he is pursuing a degree in operations management and marketing with an entrepreneurial emphasis.

Ryan attended the Rotary Youth Leadership Award program as a senior at St. Maries High School. Each year, the local St. Maries Rotary Club selects a senior to attend the leadership conference.

Not only did Ryan attend as a camper, but he also attended as a staff member in 2013 and plans to do so again this year. He also helped start a Rotaract program for young adults at the University of Idaho.

This is reprinted with permission from the Gazette Record.

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Ryan Kennelly

What is the RYLA Program?

RYLA stands for the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. RYLA encourages servant leadership in youth by recognizing and rewarding students who attend the RYLA Camp in Castlegar, British Colombia.

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When and where did you attend the RYLA Program?

I have attended RYLA twice thus far, once as a camper in 2012 and the other as a staff member in 2013. I am also returning this summer as a staff member.

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What type of activities did you participate in during the program?

RYLA’s intent is to encourage students to be more effective servant leaders. RYLA participants engage in seminars in which keynote speakers elaborate on Rotary’s purpose to the community and world, fundamentals of leadership, ethics of positive leadership, qualities of a “servant leader,” conflict management, building self-esteem and self-confidence, and the elements of community and global citizenship. Participants also dive into a positive, friendly, and inspiring environment.

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What did you gain from the program?

It is always a challenge answering this question. RYLA has provided me with an experience of a lifetime. Not only have I grown as an individual, but I have grown into a young, “Rotarian to be.”

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What is the Rotaract Program?

Rotaract is a Rotary-sponsored service club for young men and women ages 18-30. They are either community or university based, and are sponsored by a local Rotary Club. This makes them true “partners in service” and key members of the Rotary family.

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What prompted you to help start a Rotaract Club at the University of Idaho?

My experience at RYLA was the main motivation to get involved in service organizations at the University of Idaho. At RYLA, I heard about a new and young Rotaract Club of the Palouse that had recently taken flight in Moscow and Pullman. Attending the U of I gave me the opportunity to hop right in and get involved. It has been an extraordinary experience.

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What types of activities/projects has the club been involved since it started?

The Rotaract Club of the Palouse has helped serve in the communities of Moscow and Pullman since it started last year. In Moscow, we have helped clean day dare facilities, partnered with the local clubs and organizations to fundraise through a 5K Color Fun Run, gift wrapping around the holidays, ringing Salvation Army Bells, and also fundraise during the annual Relay for Life. Our club also had the opportunity to partner with the local Rotary Clubs of Moscow and Pullman to fundraise and implement “Project Tanzania”—a project that brought electricity to and connected five villages in the much needed area of Tanzania.

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Why do you feel RYLA and Rotaract are good programs?

Rotaract is a good program because it allows young individuals to not only give back to their communities, but also make a difference in the lives of others throughout the world. RYLA is a good program because it emphasizes “service above self” while also inspiring and providing students with the resources to go out in the world and accomplish their dreams.

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Both of these programs tend to focus on leadership. What qualities do you think make a good leader and why are leaders important?

A good leader has to be dynamic. A leader must be able to lead and follow, adapt to different situations, be honest, responsible, communicate well, and remain visible in their respective communities.

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Had you been involved with Rotary prior to attending the RYLA Program? Do you plan to stay involved in similar activities later on in life and why?

Rotary has always been a part of my life. My parents have been involved in Rotary for as long as I can remember. When I was younger (and still in Wisconsin) my father would take us to help set up the city lights during the holidays – for me that meant hot chocolate, but now I see the bigger picture. And absolutely (I plan to stay involved). We have a funny saying at RYLA that I finally have understood. “I have drank the Kool-aid.” It is now a life goal of mine to serve the communities in which I live, as well as do my part in making this world a better place.

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