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RYLA North

The District 7505 North Rotary Youth Leaders Awards (RYLA) is an exciting, fun-filled four-day leadership training program run by Rotarians and young adults who have demonstrated superior leadership and training skills within RYLA and in their communities.
Each year, over 180 students explore what being a "leader" means to them, through a variety of team-building, problem-solving and cooperative experiences. Our program is designed to help train ethical, visionary leaders - plus, its loads of fun.
District 7505 RYLA North encompasses 40 Rotary Clubs located within Burlington, Monmouth, and Ocean Counties of New Jersey.

Our Mission: 

To unite a team of special individuals and provide ourselves with the most powerful, enjoyable, and memorable leadership training we possibly can.

2019 Program Information: 

Saturday morning, June 29th through Tuesday evening, July 2nd, 2019
Monmouth, University - West Long Branch, NJ
Rotary Club Sponsorship Form (complete by 3/31)
Student Interest Form (complete by 3/31)
Student Application Form (selected students complete by 4/30)
Student Information Sheet (packing list, key reminders and contacts)
Required Forms (to be reviewed, signed and brought to orientation)
  • Medical Release Form - If possible, to be completed and authorized by your physician. Provides necessary information regarding immunizations, insurance, and authorizations.
  • Waiver and Release - Liability release to be reviewed and completed by legal parent/guardian
  • Code of Student Conduct - Expectations regarding student behavior while at RYLA to be reviewed and completed by both the student and legal parent/guardian

What is RYLA?

Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) is Rotary International's leadership training program for young people. In District 7505 North (Monmouth, Burlington & Ocean Counties, NJ) RYLA participants are always selected from high school students, usually from Sophomores and Juniors, but sometimes exceptional Freshmen are chosen, and on very rare occasions, high school Seniors have been sent.

RYLA emphasizes leadership, citizenship, and personal growth, and aims to

  • Demonstrate Rotary's respect and concern for youth.
  • Provide an effective training experience for selected youth and potential leaders.
  • Encourage leadership of youth by youth.
  • Recognize publicly young people who are rendering service to their communities.


District 7505 North has been conducting RYLA programs since 1995 and we believe there are two main reasons our program is great:

First - we truly believe that this is a YOUTH leadership program.  We believe in that concept so much - that's why most of our program is delivered and facilitated by our own RYLA graduates. Each year the very best and most enthusiastic RYLA participants try out for a spot on our volunteer staff. Only the very best are selected and they tend to return year after year, getting better and better with each year's experience.

Second - we firmly believe that nothing in the world is perfect; which is great! Because that means everything in the world can be improved. And every little aspect of everything. We spend many, many hours each year examining our program in minute detail, to find as many ways to improve it as we can. Every year we implement dozens - if not hundreds - of improvements to make our program better in myriad ways.

Learn more below about our history and frequently asked questions below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Where and when is RYLA North? Can I come late or leave early?
Monmouth University - 400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, NJ 07764
  • Move-in: Saturday, June 29th - 8:30 - 9:30AM Student Registration, Outside Residential Quad in Parking Lot 3
  • Move-out: Tuesday, July 2nd - 3:30 - 4:30PM Student Packing and Checkout, Outside Mullaney Hall
  • Closing Ceremony: Tuesday, July 2nd - 4:30 - 5:30PM, Pollak Theater
We highly recommend against arriving late or leaving early from the RYLA program if you can avoid it. As this is a very condensed and competitive leadership experience, we think that missing even three hours of it is significant. If you cannot avoid arriving late, leaving early, or missing parts of the program, please contact your sponsoring Rotary Club Chair or the RYLA Chair ( and let them know. If they approve of this, please ask them to inform our staff ( of your situation, so we can plan accordingly.
2. How do I confirm my attendance and submit my medical history and release forms?
All selected students (including alternates) and their legal parent/guardian must attend a mandatory Orientation session during May.  The dates and times are listed below.  All forms which must be completed will be distributed in advance so you can complete them and bring them to Orientation.  If you have any questions, please contact the RYLA Chair for assistance (Bryan O'Donnell -
1. Monmouth county - Keyport HS - Wednesday, May 15th from 7-8PM (cafeteria)
2. Burlington county - Pemberton Twp HS - Tuesday, May 28th from 7-8PM (auditorium - back part)
3. Ocean county - Toms River South HS - TBD (either Monday, May 20th or June 3rd from 7-8PM)
4. Monmouth county - Keyport HS - Saturday, June 1st from 12-1PM (cafeteria)
3. Do I have to pay for RYLA? Should I bring money?
No. The Rotary Club which has sponsored you or your child has covered the full cost of attendance ($425). The RYLA staff will not accept any payments on site for this - it is all coordinated with the sponsoring Rotary Club.
When you arrive to RYLA, you will need to provide a room key deposit of $75 payable to Monmouth University. If you do not have a check, you will be asked to provide cash as a deposit. Deposits will returned upon checkout, unless your room key is lost while at RYLA.
4. Who are the staff of RYLA? Is there medical staff?
Our RYLA staff vary in age and level of experience - some have been around since our first event in 1995 at Georgian Court, some only just attended RYLA last summer! 30+ of our staff members attended RYLA in the past three years, 5 of which will be this year's Senior Counselors. The remainder are college students and professionals who volunteer year-round to train our staff and coordinate the program.

All parents are required to complete a Medical Release form, which authorizes RYLA staff to secure health services for their children in case of emergency and provides physician authorization for their participation in the program.  Our staff review these forms and communicate with parents to help them prepare their children for any specific medical or health needs while under our supervision.

The health and safety of students is our #1 priority. RYLA leverages the student health and safety infrastructure of Monmouth University, following campus protocol to contact emergency services if there is an accident or additional medical attention appears to be needed.  This may involve contacting 911 or Monmouth University Police Department (MUPD), who are available 24/7 for security and emergency response.  The responding party will then assess the situation, take action in accordance with legal requirements and parental authorization, then contact parents to inform them.  The nearest medical facility is Monmouth Medical Center, which is less than 2 miles from Monmouth University.  
If you have anything you'd like to communicate or discuss with our staff in advance, please contact
5. How is housing assigned? Will I be with my friend?
All students are matched with at least one roommate, potentially two, of the same gender.  They are unlikely to be from the same High School as you. We intentionally try to mix everyone up at RYLA in order for you to meet new friends. Over the course of your four days at RYLA, you will spend all of your time with a team of 16-17 fellow students, along with 1 Lead Counselor and 2 Support Counselors. We know you love your friends but, for four days, give it a shot and take a small step outside your comfort zone - you won't regret it!
6. Can I bring my phone?  Am I allowed to use it while at RYLA? Can I leave RYLA once I arrive?
To encourage presence and to avoid distractions, we strongly encourage students to stay off their phones when participating in RYLA throughout the four days. We do not allow students off campus during the program unless approved by the parent and pre-cleared by our RYLA staff through release forms.  Please feel free to follow RYLA 7505 on social media to get a glimpse of what your students are up to!
7. Any other questions? Let us know!
If you have any questions, comments, concerns or compliments about the District 7505 RYLA North program or want to learn more - please reach out to the RYLA Chair, Bryan O'Donnell | | 856-473-2079

Our History

Founders of the original RYLA program
A Brief History of RYLA
Adapted by Joe Wirzburger from the letter "The Origin of RYLA" by Eric Blackford, a member of the first RYLA committee
RYLA's beginnings can be traced to Queensland, Australia in 1959.  For Queensland's centennial, a Festival Week in Brisbane was planned for young people in the same age group as Princess Alexandra, the official representative for the Queen.  This week was called "Gundoo" which is the aboriginal word for "festival" or "fun together".
The government extended an invitation for two young people, between the ages of 17 and 23, from each Shire to attend "Gundoo".  The Queensland government approached the Rotary Club of Brisbane to assist with the organization of the week's activities and the guests' living accommodations. 
Approximately 300 people from around the country attended "Gundoo".  There were many problems with the festival, but the "Gundoo" committee felt that Rotary should take it over and run it as an annual project.
The first Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) seminar was held in Brisbane from July 8-15, 1961.  There were only 26 leaders present from District 260 that year, but it was felt that the week had served a good purpose and was worth continuing. 
In 1962, the program changed slightly so that the youth leaders would spend two of the days at the YMCA "Camp Warrawee" in Petrie, outside of Brisbane.  Due to poor support at the District and Club levels, there were only 35 registrations.  It was then decided that if the clubs did not give reasonable support the following year, RYLA would be abandoned.
Over the next year, the RYLA committee made arrangements to fully acquaint District Governor Frank Sanders on all aspects of RYLA.  Due largely to his support, the third RYLA had 64 registrations.  This encouraged the committee and RYLA was on its way to becoming firmly established.
After the third seminar, RYLA spread rapidly to many other districts in Australia and then New Zealand.  In 1971, at the Rotary International Convention, RYLA was approved as an international project.  Since that time, RYLA has spread worldwide to Rotary Clubs in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway, Pakistan, the Philippines, Portugal, Switzerland, Thailand, and the United States among others.
RYLA spread to North America when a representative from District 709 was sent to observe the RYLA sponsored by the Heidelberg Club.  Subsequent to that visit, RYLA was approved as a project in 1977. Today there are hundreds of RYLA programs running in more than 30 countries.
2018 District 7505 North RYLA Staff
A Brief History of Our RYLA
By Joe Wirzburger, Dave GoWell and Bryan O'Donnell

The District 7505 North RYLA has its roots in District 7640's first RYLA held in 1980 at Stockton College in Pomona, New Jersey.  It was here that Pete Heberling from Bordentown Rotary first encountered RYLA. Pete served on the District RYLA Committee almost continuously from 1980 onward.


In 1994 David GoWell was a new Rotarian in the Mt Laurel Rotary Club. He was a motivational speaker and personal development trainer who had previously worked with Anthony Robbins. David was working with the Lenape High School Interact Club when he first heard about RYLA. He immediately knew that he wanted to get involved and contacted the RYLA Chairperson of District 7640 to offer his services as a speaker.


One of the young men who heard David speak at that RYLA in 1994 was Brad Clements. That same year, District 7510 held their RYLA at the Scanticon Conference Center in Princeton, New Jersey where Jill Eberle was a participant.


That following year Rotary International decided to re-district the Rotary Clubs in New Jersey. As part of that process Districts 7640 and 7510 were both split up, with Burlington County from District 7640 joining Monmouth and Ocean Counties from District 7510 to form a brand new district: District 7500. David GoWell volunteered to develop a new RYLA program for the brand new district, and he formed a committee with Jeff Donoghue and Pete Heberling and a few others.


The first District 7500 RYLA was held in 1995 at Georgian Court College in Lakewood, New Jersey.  The first few years they hired high school teachers as Advisors, but they brought in 10 RYLA graduates, including Brad Clements, Jill Eberle and Jody Gersh, from the previous year’s programs at Stockton and Scanticon as a Counselor team. Each Counselor was put in charge of a team of 12 participants. The Counselor training program that year consisted of getting to RYLA a couple hours before the participants and helping to assemble the registration bags!


The following year Brad, Jill and Jody returned as Senior Counselors, in charge of 10 new Counselors from RYLA 1995. Eventually the Support Counselor program was added to more fully prepare the Lead Counselors for their duties and the Counselor training program has grown more sophisticated each year. In 1997 the high school teachers were replaced with volunteer Rotarians, and they were eventually replaced by RYLA grads who had once been Sr. Counselors.


Our team of Directors, Coordinators, Advisors, Senior Counselors, Lead Counselors and Support Counselors now numbers about 55 people each year – almost every one of them a past RYLA Graduate. They train for about 40 hours every year – in between RYLAs – to prepare to change the lives of 180 new participants each June.


In 2018, Rotary Districts 7500 and 7640 merged to form the newly established Rotary International District 7505.  In 2019, the District supported two separate RYLA programs, one in the North and one in the South.  Bryan O'Donnell, a long-time volunteer for RYLA and member of the eClub of District 7505, was appointed as the RYLA North Chair.


From its early roots at the "Gundoo" festival to its present refined form, our RYLA has grown to be one of the preeminent leadership training seminars in the entire world.