Rotary Youth Program of Enrichment (RYPEN) is a weekend residential experience for students designed to develop skills that will assist them in the transition to adulthood. Participants are involved in a variety of workshops and activities, which provide an opportunity for them to personally develop, gain self-confidence, communication skills, challenge themselves, build friendships, and develop life skills.
In 2021, three QAHS students were sponsored by their local Rotary Clubs in Rotary District 9640 to participate in RYPEN. The fulfilment of the program's purpose can be enjoyed by reading the delegates' reflections on the experience:
'If I closed my eyes, I could still remember the feeling of stepping outside in my pyjamas at 6:10 in the morning, freezing cold and regretting every second of my existence. It feels like just yesterday I was lugging my suitcase behind me whilst trying to placate my mother that yes, I did bring snacks, and no, I will not expire from the mattresses being too thin. These are platitudes that may be familiar to my fellow peers at QAHS come school camps, but interestingly, they were all said and done with Britney Spear's timeless classic, Toxic, blasting away in the background.
However, any lingering reservations were promptly quenched when the camp kicked into gear. Through the RYPEN volunteers' entertaining introductions and fun ice-breaker activities, I was able to make friends so quickly that I surprised myself.
Cold mornings-induced existential crises aside, the camp was enlightening and made me interact with my environment like never before. Even freezing wet mornings had their appeal: they were mornings where the golden light shone upon the tree peaks and the sky lit up with an unobstructed purple-orange, the air fresh and clear.
At the camp, I was able to take time for myself and relax before the haze of oncoming exams. There were a wide-range of stimulating and edifying speakers, ranging from AI start-ups aimed to help you make better decisions in life to discussions of how a Mediterranean diet was beneficial to mental health. The food was better than I'd imagined, and there was copious amounts of Taylor Swift songs to keep everyone musically happy and content.
Overall, RYPEN was a weekend filled with laughter, interactive activities, and everyone came away with new bonds and previously unthought of perspectives. It was an experience that pleasantly took me outside my comfort zone, and one that I would recommend to any future students that wish to enrich and broaden their horizons.'
Year 11 RYPEN delegate
I recently had the opportunity to attend the RYPEN camp for our district, which I'm incredibly grateful for. I heard about the camp through my surf club, and applied directly to a few Rotary clubs in the area. I was overwhelmed by the number of responses I received, and managed to secure an offer with the Gold Coast Rotary Club. I wasn't sure what to expect, but once I arrived at the camp I was quickly struck by how calm and enthusiastic everyone was, despite not knowing anyone there. Over the next few days, we had many more activities to bond, and I made some lifelong friends, as well as sitting through many lectures and presentations which taught us countless life skills for now and the future. The highlight of the camp was certainly the second night, when we had an unprompted 80's themed dance party, in which I got to play an uncanny representation of a rather clumsy James Bond. I grew a lot over this weekend and my new friends and I can't wait to apply for the Rotary Youth Transition Seminar (RYTS) next year!
Year 11 RYPEN delegate
'My experience at RYPEN was one that I will remember forever. I jumped at the opportunity to attend RYPEN this year because approaching the end of my high school experience, I wanted time to focus on developing my skills which will be necessary for my transition into university. For example, leadership, confidence and the importance of friendship throughout life which personally, I still need some work on. RYPEN was a packed but also relaxing three days full of directed, group and individual tasks to assist in developing these skills, and I feel as though I have grown in these areas tremendously as a result. I made friends and developed connections that I know I will keep and will serve me positively for a lifetime. Furthermore, this retreat gave me a newfound sense of motivation and optimism as I move towards my final Year12 exams.
RYPEN truly reminded me that I am capable of achieving anything I put my mind to in this world, and I have lots of people around me to support this process. I would recommend RYPEN to any young person wanting to become stronger and more comfortable in their own skin, and to meet other like-minded high school students out of their school circle. RYPEN also teaches you strategies in order to crucially manage the stress that may present itself in life and emphasises the benefits of self-regulation. Attending RYPEN has even made me consider exploring the possibility of becoming a member of the RYPEN leadership team in the future in order to help other young people like myself hone these crucial skills. I thank the Rotary Club of Broadwater Southport for sponsoring my attendance at RYPEN, and I am eternally grateful for the immense impacts this has had on me as a young person in this instrumental stage of my development.'
Year 12 RYPEN delegate
Principal/Interact CAS Supervisor