Sophomore experiences leadership at Rotary Youth Academy

By Dick Maloney

Asked to nominate a student to attend the Rotary Youth leadership Academy, Clermont Northeastern High School counselor Amy Comisar tried to think of one who might not have been an obvious candidate. That eventually led her to sophomore Addie O’Dell.

“I would look for a student that shows those leadership qualities that aren't necessarily the leadership qualities that just happen every day, right? They come to school, they're responsible, they're kind of … they're helpful, they're involved,” Comisar said.

The Academy, which this year was March 18 to March 20 at Camp Kern in Oregonia, is, according to the Rotary’s introductory letter, “part of Rotary’s New Generations initiative to develop your skills as a leader while having fun and making connections.”

Check, check and check, from O’Dell’s perspective.

“It was actually pretty fun. We did a lot of stuff and it was kind of constant, like one thing after the other. We did a lot of things outside and teamwork and leadership sort of activities. One of the things we did was rock climbing and that was really fun to do. So it was like a fun experience overall,” she said.

Attendance was limited to 100 participants, who stayed large cabins with bunk beds, sharing a common bathroom and walking “about a quarter mile” to the dining hall.

“You were separated into smaller groups, but you would still sometimes interact with those other groups because there were some times activities we had to do or we had to work with those other people. But you spent most of the time with a small group that you were separated to,” O’Dell said.

Sheila Hinton, Clermont YMCA community executive, said being elected to attend the Academy is a special honor and opportunity.

“RYLA is part of Rotary’s New Generations initiative to engage Rotarians in the lives of developing youth. RYLA features several outdoor challenges, critical thinking exercises, and motivational speakers. One-hundred percent of the cost of the camp is covered by sponsoring Rotary Clubs,” Hinton said, “Perhaps the greatest benefit will come from sharing this experience with up to 100 other outstanding students from all over Southwest Ohio.”

RYLA attendees are usually sophomores and juniors, Comisar said, and there is a good reason behind that.

“You know, being a sophomore, a junior, sometimes you're like the middle child of high school.” Comisar said. “There's a ton of planning for opportunities after high school. For ninth-grade there's a ton of transition activities for trying to survive and then 10th-grade is kind of like, we expect you to have it all together, but there's maybe not always the obvious internships or things like that.”

Being selected for and participating in the camp is also something students can put on their resumes, either for college or a post-high school career, Comisar said. O’Dell’s resume includes being a member of the track team and the marching band; she is also interested in drawing, but hasn’t formulated definite plans for after graduation in 2024.

Until Comisar tabbed her, she hadn’t considered herself a leader.

“I can be if I have to, I just don't always choose to, but I think I can if I need to be,” she said, describing leadership as "stepping up in an instance and helping people and navigating and taking control of a situation without being like a tyrant.”

Comisar said O’Dell is an everyday leader at CNE.

“Absolutely yeah, she's just a student that she comes to school. She does what's asked of her, she's academically really strong. She's involved and she is always kind of just, she's just willing to do what she says willing to do whatever she needs to do, an internal drive,” Comisar said.