By Peter Frueh, District Governor 2017-2018
May is Youth Service Month across the Rotary world. It is a time to reflect on the many great Rotary programs to support youth. Some of these are run across the world such as Youth Exchange, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, Rotary Youth Program of Enrichment. Others across Australia, such as Model United Nations Assembly, National Youth Science Forum.
And of course our youth service clubs, Rotaract (18-30yo), Interact (secondary school) and Earlyact (primary school). Our clubs also have many other programs such as public speaking, school scholarships, reading and homework support for disadvantaged students.
Why has Rotary International always invested in youth programs? Quite simply our youth are our future, and this has been long recognised. For Rotary with its long history, we have seen youth programs help form leaders over the decades. Often the alumni of these programs have recognised the help given to them and paid it back by getting involved themselves as Rotarians, as leaders in the youth programs or in other aspects of life.
However, in many cases as clubs have aged they have lost connection with schools and alumni of these programs. Worldwide only 5% of Rotaractors become Rotarians and Rotaract in Australia is less strong than it was some years ago. While we can debate the causes of our loss of connection with youth program alumni (turnover of Rotarians, social media, studies, travel, work, etc), it doesn’t stop us doing something about it - reconnecting with alumni.
In May, could your club go through its records of the last five years say and look to reconnect and have an event which celebrates their involvement and updates members on what alumni are doing? Could your President Elect, incoming Board and Youth Services chair look towards which programs to support or introduce in 2018-19? Our District Assembly on 20th May will provide many ideas.