rotary youth 300CENTRAL CITY, Ky. (9/28/13) – Muhlenberg County got a close up look at the future of the International Rotary Club on Friday, Sept. 27, when Rotary Youth Leadership Award winners (RYLA) took to the streets of Central City, trash bags in hand, for a one day beautification blitz.
 
Sean Mooningham, last year's president of the Muhlenberg County Rotary Club, told SurfKY News reporters, "The organization's motto is made up of three simple but powerful words...'Service above self'.”
 
Members of RYLA, district 6710, which covers the western half of Kentucky, are spending time learning what those three words can mean when put into action during a leadership retreat at the Wendell Ford National Guard Training Center.
 
"This year we have 65 kids involved," Mooningham said. "The theme the last few years has been 'Leadership, The Cowboy Way', based upon the bestselling book by Jim Owens titled 'Cowboy Ethics'. Nine teams have divided up, and are picking up trash, weeding some areas of the city and just doing some much-needed general maintenance. Members of the Rotary met with Carmel Rich of the Central City Tourism Commission and Mayor Barry Shaver to put a plan together."
 
Mayor Shaver thanked the group of teens as they split up into groups covering various areas of Central City.
 
Fariba Muhlheizler, a Rotarian from Crestwood, Kentucky, a RYLA group leader, helped coordinate this week's various activities.

"The RYLA members arrived on Thursday and will be leaving Sunday afternoon. This clean-up project is just one of the activities planned. They'll also have numerous training programs." Muhlheizler said.
 
Noting how RYLA members are chosen, Muhlheizler explained, "The group is made up entirely of high school freshmen. Each was nominated by their school counselor that saw something special in them, maybe a bit of a leadership spark. But they may be a little bit shy, or they just need a little encouragement. These are all kids that have that little bit of something that a teacher or counselor has seen in them, and we're trying to help bring it out."
 
Kay Sharon, of the Elizabethtown Rotary Club, said she has been involved in the program since 2008.
 
"The program has really grown since then. We may have had about 25 attendees in '08, and this year we have around 65. We do this in partnership with the Kentucky National Guard, and they are such a great group to be with. At lunch today we ate over at the Muhlenberg Ag & Convention Center and we had MREs. We, and the kids, got a lesson in what our soldiers eat, like it or not, when they are defending our country." Sharon noted.

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RYLA member Brackton Bogart, a high school student from Murray, told reporters, "What I like about the program is learning to live the Rotarian motto, 'Service above self'. It's all about serving your community, that's exactly what it is."
 
Taylor Summers, a freshman from Nelson County, said he's enjoying making new friends and helping out the Central City community.
 
Central City Tourism Commissioner Carmel Rich said she was "absolutely amazed by the event Friday. The fact that this organization would come and just volunteer to help beautify our city is a very nice surprise. I want to thank Sean Mooningham and all the members of the Muhlenberg County Rotary Club for helping make this happen."
 
Mooningham added that local Rotary Club members have also been living their motto over the past few Wednesdays, putting down borders and mulch around the playground equipment at Central Park, in cooperation with Tom Barton, Executive Director of the Greater Muhlenberg Parks and Recreation.
 
RYLA is coordinated by Rotary Clubs worldwide. Each year, thousands of young people participate in this program. Each young person is sponsored by members of Rotary Clubs to attend the event run by the club's district committee. Participants are chosen for their leadership potential. Rotary Clubs and the Rotary District cover all expenses for the participants.
 
Paul McRee
SurfKY News

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