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Rotary camp brings out leadership skills

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By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

Matthew Horne and Jeremy McClelland, two 10th grade students from Chiefland High School felt a little out of place at the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards camp in the Panhandle.
It wouldn't last long.
Before Sunday they would come out of their cocoons.
Call it the RYLA effect.
"It changes their life," said Dr. Bill Martin, a dentist and former president of the Chiefland Rotary Club. The camp uses team-building exercises, personal challenges and group challenges to draw out the students from around the state and get them to reach out and bond with total strangers. "This is the kind of thing corporations pay a couple of thousand dollars to do."
This is the second year Martin has participated in the camp with students sponsored by the Chiefland Rotary Club. Last year he took Eli Poole, now an 11th grade student at CHS. Martin said on the trip up to the camp Poole said very little to him and his wife. On the way back from the camp he was exuberant and didn't stop talking to the couple.
This year, Poole tagged along and helped shepherd Horne and McClelland. Students for the camp are chosen by CHS faculty as being students whose leadership abilities need some coaxing out. These are not athletes and student leaders — not yet.
"I felt arkward and out of place," said Horne. "But the activities they did made us interact. ... Before I went I wasn't that willing to step out of my comfort zone."
Horne said he learned that being your own person is what really makes a leader.
Jeremy McClellan said he liked his comfort zone, but the activities changed that. "The hardest thing for me was the opening up,' he said.
In one activity he learned to rely on others.
"I had to climb a 12-foot wall and I'm not a small boy to get over a wall," he told the Chiefland Rotary Club.
Poole went for the alumni activities, but he also kept an eye on the newbies. "By the end of the last day everybody knew Matt's name," he said.
And Poole was still learning. "As an alumni I got to learn to listen."
"This is one of the best investments our club can make," Martin told club members. "They really had to stretch. They really had to think on their feet. They were walking on wires 30, 40, 50 feet off the ground."
Now back, the trio is taking on a Rotary project: raising money for a Shelter Box kit. The disaster kit costs over $1,000 and is a box with everything a family needs to establish a temporary home and survive after a disaster. It contains a tent and supplies, like a water purification kit, camp stove and blankets.  The box will cost about $1,000.