RYLA University is a digital program created by The Rotaract Club of Leadership & Service, based out of Northern New Jersey. The program was created by the alumni and current Servant Leaders of District 7490 in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic in order to create an interactive digital program to help youth & young adults educate themselves on the principles Rotary International teaches through RYLA. The course module includes exercises that lead to personal and team growth, activities that give back to the community and strategies to begin your leadership journey. Individual progress throughout the module is moderated through a worksheet that is submitted at the end of the course to receive a certificate of completion. 

The course (based on 7490’s RYLA week) is divided into four sections: Personal, Team, Community, Global. It walks participants through lessons that improve personal understanding of these concepts and how they can learn to be a more effective leader through these principles. In addition to the course, there is a subsection where live speakers will be scheduled as well as a platform for districts to interact with their participants through Small Groups. The program is flexible and can be tailored to the needs and wants of specific districts that participate in the program.

OUR MISSION

MEET THE TEAM

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MICHELLE ZERELIK

Writer, Instructor, Web Developer

Michelle Zerelik first attended RYLA in 2016 as a participant RYLAteer. This first RYLA experience changed her life and outlook on how important positively impacting the lives of those around you can be. She felt very passionate about service and how leadership contributed so heavily to the meaning of "service above self." After that, she came back as a Servant Leader for Rotary District 7490’s RYLA team in 2018. Michelle has served as a RYLA Small Group Leader in both 2018 and 2019. She became a Rotaractor in 2020 and is serving as President Elect for the Rotaract Cub of District 7490 for the 2020-21 Rotary year. 

 

Michelle will be graduating in May 2021 from Montclair State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Family Studies and Human Development, she plans to go to graduate school to earn her Master’s Degree in Speech Language Pathology. 

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BROOKE GORSICA

Writer, Instructor, Lead Web Developer

Brooke Gorsica’s first RYLA was in 2017 where she served as a cinematographer to document Rotary Youth Leadership Awards' conference. Since then, she has deepened her involvement with RYLA by being a Small Group Leader and has been a Rotaractor since 2020. She graduated from George Mason University in May of 2019 with her Bachelors from Mason’s College of Visual and Performing Arts with concentrations in Film & Media Studies / Event Technical Production. Brooke is currently a multimedia designer & an event technician in Hudson County, NJ.

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DAVID EDELSTEIN

Writer, Instructor, Producer

David Edelstein's connection with Rotary International has taken many forms in many different locations over the last decade. He attended the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards as a high school junior in 2014, returned to lead RYLA 7490 each year since 2016, served as the Vice President of the Rotaract Club of Syracuse University in its first full year of existence, is a repeat speaker at Rotary Club meetings, is an active volunteer in District 7150, currently serves as President of the Rotaract Club of Leadership & Service and also, of course, is an active volunteer for many service projects. David has also connected with other Rotary Districts and RYLA programs across the United States and internationally, including observing RYLA 5330 in southern California and connecting with Districts 6980 and 6930 in Florida, 5020 and 5030 in Washington State and western Canada, 7150 and 7170 in central New York, 7910 in central Massachusetts and 5650 in Nebraska. David has recruited, organized, trained and motivated teams that have successfully led multiple international leadership and service programs he coordinated. David says the connections he has made through RI and the values and lessons he has learned from RYLA have positively impacted his life in more ways than can be counted. Rotary truly does open opportunities. Rotary does connect the world. You can be the inspiration. What you do does matter. David now works as a professional broadcaster as the Sports Director at WUTR/WFXV/WPNY TV in Utica, NY, where he covers high school, college and professional sports.

GAB VARANO

Writer, Editor

Gab Varano is so grateful to be able to work with such a passionate and talented group of leaders to help teach others the value of service and leadership. RYLA changed her life. She attended the program in 2016 and returned in 2018 to help facilitate it – and it sounds cheesy – but she learned so much about who she is and who she wants to be as a leader and as a human being. You are all young leaders, so take advantage of every opportunity you have to develop into who you want to be, too. RYLA is different for everyone, but the knowledge you can gain and the lessons you can learn are absolutely endless. What you do with that information is up to you – she hopes you chose to share it, just as all of the people who worked on RYLA University are sharing it with you. Gab will be graduating from Hofstra University in May 2021 with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and minors in Philosophy and Mass Media Studies.

 

Fun Fact: She is almost always cold and sometimes carries a small blanket around with her!

BRANDON HERRERA

Writer, Content Researcher

Brandon Herrera first attended RYLA as a participant in 2014 and has come back as a Servant Leader since 2016, marking this his 5th year leading RYLA 7490. He is a film student at Ramapo College and a Rotaractor since 2020. RYLA has taught him how to bring back to his community many lifelong lessons. He’s huge on volunteer work and spreading positivity for the better world. He has facilitated both Small and Action Groups and was also Closing Ceremonies planner and chair. He has changed as a person for the better since his time participating in RYLA and hopes to influence others with his leadership.