Rotary teaches teens leadership skills with help from residents

By Catherine Stachowiak

Each year the members of the Rotary Club of Kern River Valley volunteer to bring a group of Kern Valley High School students to the KernYes! The next summit will be held Saturday, March 16, to which Kern County students are invited to attend. 

The KernYes! is a Youth Empowerment Summit helping youth to pursue leadership and positive character improvement goals.  

With motivational speakers, during the event, the modules center on team building, public speaking, diversity, and ethics.

The Rotary Youth Leadership Academy will follow, as it is scheduled for April 11-14.

Club member Deanne Shulman said, “Rotary Club covers all costs of tuition and transportation for both events.  We do have a limited budget and could use some infusions of funds.” To help sponsor students to attend both events please contact Deanne Shulman at [email protected]

Allie Bender, member of the Rotary club, formerly volunteered twice as a counselor at the KernYes! taking students to the event.

“I was lucky enough to be able to do leadership type things when I was in high school,” she said.

“It just really strikes me that the Rotary Club is doing this because I feel like doing those types of leadership things, when I was in high school, really put me on a trajectory to where I am now.”

Bender works with the US Forest Service.   She thinks the leadership skills she learned in her youth, when she was impressionable, stuck with her. 

“That is why I love this program so much and why I like to help volunteer with it because I want to hopefully spark that in other people. And I think that the whole goal of KernYes! is to give kids the confidence in themselves to step outside their comfort zone, to meet people that they’re not exposed to on a day to day basis, since this is such a small high school and community up here,” she said.

Some of the activities at the summit were team building imaginary scenarios.  The guest speakers are powerful and motivating, according to Bender.  And the youth attending the event also enjoy a dance at the end.  Students have the potential to attain a scholarship there.

Almost any student at the high school could go to this event and the Rotary Club would like more students to attend.  

Kat Barnum, Rotarian, also volunteered at the KernYes!  Barnum said her daughter, who is now in her 30s had the opportunity to write an essay and attend a leadership conference.  “She came back from that experience completely changed.”

Barnum said the students learn diplomacy and are able to work in a group and do presentations.  “It’s just such a great opportunity for a kid to get outside and experience something completely exciting and fun.”

Barnum said the motivational speakers at KernYes! inspire the kids to be all they can be and know that the Rotary Club is there to help them on the way. 

The Rotary Club gives students a dog tag type plaque, which says, “The four way test 

of things we think, say and do. Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it

build good will and better friendships? And will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

Students walk away with those words around their neck, as a reminder, and it helps them keep accountability.

“What they’re hoping to do is to empower the youth to become models of character, leadership, and service.”

To help sponsor students to attend both events please contact Deanne Shulman at [email protected]