We recently caught up with some of our former RYLA graduates from Scarborough. Here is an interview with Sarah Buckingham, who attended Dartmouth College, and was one of 200 selected for Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia, PA. Sarah graduated from Jefferson Medical School in May 2011, and is currently doing her residency in neurology at Yale.


What were some of the skills or thoughts you came away with after experiencing RYLA for the first time?

RYLA was an important vehicle by which I was able to develop my leadership skills at a young age. Being exposed to the many, various leadership styles allowed me to discover which style suited me best. I have since applied all that I learned in RYLA to several activities, often in a leadership role, during my time at Dartmouth College, as well as Jefferson Medical College. 


Why would you recommend RYLA to future RYLA applicants?

Through my 4 years with the program (3 years as a facilitator), I have observed the positive impact that RYLA makes in many teenagers' lives. I think the values and skills taught at RYLA are critical for the growth and development of students at a high school level and, in many instances, function to launch students into a successful future they previously did not believe was possible. Additionally, RYLA is a great way to meet and connect with peers at other high schools in Northern New England who share similar goals and values.   


If you returned as a facilitator to future RYLA classes, what was different about your experience as a facilitator vs. as a participant?

The main difference between being a participant and a facilitator is that your time as a facilitator is a unique opportunity to apply all of those skills, leadership and otherwise, that one learns while a program participant. The students look to the facilitator for guidance, mentorship and advice, which is the optimal forum in which to apply the leadership skills acquired as a participant. I experienced an equal, if not greater, amount of personal growth as a facilitator than as a participant.


Many strong bonds are created at RYLA, how have these bonds grown or helped you throughout the years?

An important concept emphasized in RYLA is trust. Through its curriculum, the program teaches students to trust their peers during difficult challenges, as well as leisure activities. This serves as a strong foundation on which to form strong bonds and, indeed, this was my experience. Throughout the 4 years I was involved with RYLA, and beyond, I was able to rely on these relationships for continued support.  


What did your experience at RYLA help you with?  Can you give a specific example of how a skill you learned at RYLA helped you down the road at school, or in your current career? 

The most significant concept I learned during my time with RYLA was the leadership style which best suited my personality. Once I discovered the best way for me to function as a strong leader, I naturally acquired the confidence to apply those leadership skills in meaningful ways. The most striking example of this personal growth occurred during college. During my sophomore year while volunteering at the nearby hospital, I developed a great interest in neurology and the neurosciences. Through subsequent conversations with my peers at Dartmouth College, I realized that many students had little exposure to the neurosciences and wished to learn more about career opportunities in the field. I came up with the idea to establish a student organization devoted to this cause, called the Dartmouth Chapter of the College Student Interest Group in the Neurosciences. I obtained funding, presented the idea to the Student Activities Board and received approval for this organization. I then recruited members and organized events on campus to promote the neurosciences. This experience was both personally and professionally fulfilling (I am now in my Neurology residency at Yale - New Haven Hospital), and the leadership skills I developed through the RYLA program were integral in this accomplishment.