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Ripon High teens attend camp

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Rotary Camp RYLA students spoke at Ripon Rotary’s noon meeting Wednesday telling of their experiences. Standing with Rotary President Nancy Hall and Frances Taylor are from left, Jorge Gonzalez, R...

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

POSTED April 18, 2013 1:33 a.m.

The Rotary Club leadership camp near Coarsegold in the foothills was a blast, five Ripon High School students told Ripon Rotarians at their Wednesday noon meeting inside the Barnwood Restaurant.

The five students, who spoke individually from the lectern, told of their experiences and thanked Ripon Rotarians for sending them to the week-long camp.  Ripon High School Principal Lance Morrow accompanied the four boys and one girl – all juniors.  The RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards) recipients included Jeffrey Rogers, Ryan Kirkpatrick, Blake Morrow, Olivia Shipherd, and Jorge Gonzalez.

The boys’ camp was several miles away from the girls’ setting rather than being in close proximity that had caused distractions in past years.  Each camp had some 110 students apiece.

Jeff Rogers, who has been involved in sports and leadership at Ripon High, said the camp food was great and lauded the three speakers as being inspirational.  The principles about life were central to each of their presentations to the Ripon teenagers, he said.

Rogers said he hopes to attend Cal Berkeley after his graduation from RHS and is focused on ultimately becoming an attorney.

Ryan Kirkpatrick said, “By far it is the most memorable camp I have been to.”

He told of the impact motivational speaker Roger Crawford had on him sharing his story of persistence and determination.  Crawford, who is handicapped, with only two fingers on one hand and a thumb on the other displayed a peace sign with those two fingers and a thumb’s up from the other.  He is also able to throw a football a good distance.

Crawford taught campers to achieve their goals, even when facing obstacles.  Many of these obstacles are forms of anxiety that we ourselves place in our paths, but if we keep sight of goals we can eventually reach them, he was quoted as saying.

Kirkpatrick said he wants to go to Fresno State and earn a degree in Human Biology and then continue his education into medicine.  He, like several other teens, is a member of the Sacred Heart Club on campus.

He noted that their cabins were separate with each having a number that also represented the teens in their camp competitions.  There were 10 bunks and a single bathroom, he noted.

Olivia Shipherd attended the girls’ section of the camp, saying she had made a new friend even before boarding the bus that took them to camp.

“All the speakers brought a perspective about morals,” she said as she made her presentation before the lunch group Wednesday.  She said she hopes to attend college in either Michigan or California and has long wanted to be a nurse, but now she is not sure about her major.

“I just know I want to help people,” she quipped.

Ripon High Student Body President Blake Morrow said he had been to several leadership camps in the past, saying Camp RYLA was the best yet.  It was the first time where teens were not told what to do but had to organize and carry out their challenges pretty much on their own.

Blake said he hopes to be able to go to the U.S. Air Force Academy and ultimately move on to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.  He said when he was only a small boy his mother made that suggestion. He added that it has stuck with him – not know what it meant – but since causing him to research the possibilities – now it is his focus for the future.

“I want to make a difference and help people,” Morrow said.

Jorge Gonzalez, like Olivia Shipherd and Ryan Kirkpatrick, has been in Future Farmers of America for years and involved in Tae Kwon Do for years as well along with track and other activities.

“I’m just all over the place (on campus) from 6 a.m. in the morning until 6 at night,” he chuckled.

Jorge said he appreciated the opportunities to speak personally with the inspirational speakers and to talk with them while being a part of something special – Camp RYLA.

Being part of the Engineering section, he took part in making trophies for the award winners and doing problem solving in how to make a bridge with only two pieces of paper and pine cones.

His future college plans center around U.C. Davis, Stanford and Berkeley, hoping to someday become a urologist in memory of his grandfather.

As the students arrived at the camp and entered the lounge area that first day, the Competition group was in hot debate.  They were discussing what games to play, whether it be Water Pong, Ninja or basketball.  The teens soon learned that the first day’s competition would be Water Pong, Pictionary, Ultimate Frisbee and basketball.  Each cabin would make up a separate team for the competitions.

At the entertainment group’s first session they were busy trying to organize their ideas for the night’s performance.  Addison Howe, of Lodi High School, said they were considering nine potential acts for the final night’s performance.

The Camp Council discussed the presidency at Camp RYLA, problems that have occurred in the past and possible solutions to those dilemmas.

The Ripon students had nothing but praise for the keynote inspirational speakers that Rotary brought to the camp for them to meet.

Roger Crawford has been an inspirational speaker for the past 29 years, having been impaired since birth.  Both his hands and feet are underdeveloped.  His handicap was only physical and he has continued to have a positive outlook on life, passing that on to the students in his audiences.

The daily camp newspaper, The RYLA Record, put out by students made reference to Crawford saying, “We applaud him in his inspiring actions and he has surely inspired us to be persistent.  He has taught us to strive for our goals, despite how far-fetched they might be, because impossible always takes a little longer than possible!”

Brian Shul was described as another “amazing” speaker with his story of courage, strength and hope.  As a fighter pilot in Vietnam he was shot down in the middle of the jungle – thinking he would die – but he survived.  After he was rescued and spent a year in a Japanese hospital, Shul pulled through and went on to live a life without fear.  He became a pilot of the fastest jet in the world, the SR-71 Black Bird.

Shul left the students with an inspiring message, “Even if you think you have the right attitude, it doesn’t guarantee success.  You have to do it!”

The other speaker going before the campers was Joelle Gomez – a native of Lockeford.  Joelle told the students, “It’s not about being the best, but doing your best.”

Joelle’s dream of becoming a broadcaster was reached and she went on to become the CEO of the Women’s Center of San Joaquin County.  She launched the Clothesline project – a program that gives different colored shirts to victims and allows them to express their suffering.  She faithfully believes that no matter what the background or economic level of a person, they deserve respect and help.

The RYLA Record staff took a survey asking about how life with cabin mates worked out in the camp scheme.   Here are two of the teens’ answers about making friends in a very short time.

“It’s really cool how a bunch of guys with completely different personalities and characters can come together and become great friends in such a short period of time.”

Another wrote, “What began as strangers, progressed into friendships and has now established as a family.  The experience shared with the cabin members has enriched the events here at RYLA.  We are blessed.”

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