We recently caught up with some of our former RYLA graduates from Scarborough. Here is an interview with Whitney Chamberlain, who is currently attending the University of Maine, Orono.



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


After my RYLA experience, I started to think with a much broader perspective. RYLA taught me to think about how situations effect others and not just myself. I learned that the end result is not what matters, what truly matters are the trials and tribulations of the journey, the relationships made with others, and the memories that last a lifetime. That is exactly how I want to live my life and I learned that at RYLA. I want to focus on each day as it comes, and not worry about what will happen five years down the road. It's good to plan and prepare, but I don't want to live my life always thinking about the future or else I will forget to stop and smell the roses. I also learned about leadership - everyone can be a leader and there are many different kinds of leaders. At RYLA there were times when I felt like a voice of reason needed to be heard and I was willing to stand up and take the reins. There were other times when I knew it was best to stand back and let others lead the way. A leader needs to communicate well and keep everyone's best interests in mind.


Why would you recommend RYLA to future RYLA applicants?


I would recommend RYLA to future applicants, because it is a life-changing experience. At first it may seem like just a really fun camp, but later it is obvious that it is much more than that. RYLA helps people step out of their comfort zone by making new friends, trusting others, overcoming fears, learning how to communicate well, and discovering new ways to be an effective leader.


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


I made strong bonds with many of my L.E.G. (Leadership experience group) members at RYLA. Once RYLA was over, my group wanted to have reunions as soon as we could. We managed to have 3 or 4 reunions and stayed in touch for about 2 years after RYLA. Once we all graduated and started to go to college, everyone seemed to be so busy that communication slowed pretty much to a halt. I still see one of my 10 other L.E.G. members at the University of Maine Orono where we both go to school. We try to meet for lunch whenever we can. I haven't been in touch with many of my other L.E.G. members, but the bonds I made with them at RYLA will never go away. I remember how they put their trust in me and I in them, and that kind of bond doesn't just disappear. I remember Linda's hilarious personality and Hope's "boom-snap-clap" that everyone in our group loved to do. Whenever I think of the song Build Me Up Buttercup I think of the day my group sang songs on the way to challenges and that song was one of them. Paige later made us all cds with songs to remind us of RYLA. Stu (Stuart) was incredibly smart and was like a human dictionary. He now goes to college at Harvard. Meghan is one of the sweetest people I've met and has the best heart. Alex is such an outdoors-man. He bikes, hikes, runs, etc. and is quite the intellectual. Cassie is an amazing soccer player. I could keep going but it's obvious that each of my team members is special in their own way. I remember all of our challenges and how we reacted to each. Some were braver than others, more skilled than others, or quicker than others, but we were on the same team and looked out for each other. I may not talk to them very much anymore, but I will always remember the experiences I had with them and the life lessons I learned.


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?


My experiences at RYLA taught me how to trust others. I practiced perseverance at RYLA and I learned that the end result does not always determine whether something is successful or not. During one challenge where my team had to get huge, rubber tires over a wooden post, my team was having trouble and two of my teammates' safety was at stake. We realized that even though we weren't going to be able to complete the challenge, the safety of our group members was much more important. I also learned that encouragement and motivation are important skills in life. We had one challenge where we had to climb over a very high wall at RYLA and one of my team members was scared. She wanted to sit out the challenge, but my teammates and I encouraged her to at least give it a try before opting out. When she finally decided to try, all of us were already over the wall. I decided to climb back over the wall and help her up. It ended up working out for everyone because we all made it over the wall and my teammate overcame her fears. After that challenge we all felt a sense of accomplishment.


I have learned so many valuable lessons and skills from RYLA. I have to say that one of the most important skills I learned was confidence. I tend to be a shy person, especially when meeting new people. After going to RYLA I gained more confidence in myself and this year I used that confidence to help me during an interview for an internship with Woodard & Curran, an engineering, science, and operations company in Portland. I have been working as an intern for Woodard & Curran for four weeks now and it is amazing! I am learning so much and gaining job experience, but every day I am forced out of my comfort zone. I have been on site visits and met with contractors, I've been given a tour of a waste water treatment plant, I've watched a debate at EcoMaine and spoken with the manager, I've traveled to Bangor for a presentation and met other engineers, and in the Portland office I meet new people on a daily basis. I truly believe that luck is when opportunity meets preparedness, and RYLA prepared me for my first internship. I feel very lucky to have attended RYLA.