2023-2024 Rotary Youth Leadership Award

Rotary Seeks Nominations of Leading Sophomores by February 12, 2024

For the seventh year, the Rotary Club of Weston and Wayland’s Rotary Youth Leadership Award program will recognize leading sophomores who invest themselves in “service above self, focusing on leadership and community service.” 

Any student can be nominated by a member of the community by completing this 5-minute form by Monday, February 12, 2024, and we'll celebrate the first group of sophomores on Thursday, February 29, 2024.

“During the 2023-24 academic year, sophomores who live or study in Wayland or Weston will be recognized for their ability to embrace community service as a core value, just as Rotary Clubs around the world do,” said John Marchiony, the RYLA Co-Chair along with Mark Messina.  

Since launching the Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) in 2017, the Rotary Club of Weston and Wayland has recognized seventy-four sophomores and has sponsored ten each year to attend the transformational RYLA Conference in June. 

“The students we have met over the last six years of the RYLA program have made amazing contributions and have become outstanding collaborators,” Marchiony continued. “Individually and with the Rotary Interact Clubs at the high schools in Wayland and Weston, the students who have been nominated for the award have made a tremendous impact. A highlight of our experience has been assisting with the students’ initiatives and welcoming them as volunteers on projects we have done.”

Selected students will be recognized at innovative online and in-person events.  

Rotarian Patricia MacNeil, vice president of The Village Bank in Wayland, has seen clearly that “the students who are nominated and selected for the Youth Leadership Award embody each word in the name. They are sophomores -- 15 and 16-year-olds -- who are committed to contributing and leading and are aspiring to be great citizens of their communities. These are young people to watch, and follow! They are improving our communities now and for the future." 

Each student selected as an award winner also will be invited and encouraged to apply to represent Wayland and Weston at the 2024 Rotary Youth Leadership Academy (RYLA), the leadership conference held annually in Massachusetts. Approximately 200 students attend along with 200 volunteers. Zoe Hughes, Wayland Class of 2020, won the Award in 2018 and attended the conference.  “RYLA,” according to Hughes, “was truly life-changing for me. After going as a sophomore, I had the privilege of being able to participate again as a Group Facilitator. The friendships I made, the leadership skills I acquired, and the passion I developed for service are all things that I’ll hold throughout my life. Because of RYLA, I am more confident in myself as a person and as a leader.” 

In 2024, the Weston Wayland Rotary Club again plans to sponsor ten students to attend the conference. 

“‘Service above self’ is the motto that attracted me to Rotary,” said Mark Messina, who advises the Interact Club at Wayland High School. “I believe that people want to do more community service more often in our communities. These students, whether they are already leaders or have shown leadership potential, have great energy for engaging their peers, parents, and communities. It will be exciting to see what they create this year.”

The Rotary Youth Leadership Award recognizes students for their leadership potential or experience in keeping with the Rotary motto of “Service above Self.” Any student can be nominated by any member of the school community, including teachers, coaches, administrators, advisors, students, or community leaders using the simple online nomination form.  Outstanding students will be selected and recognized in October and February based on nominations received anytime before October 27, 2024 and February 12, 2024. If you have any questions, please contact us at president@westonwaylandrotary.comgmail.com

Rotary Youth Leadership Award

February 2023 RYLA Winners

“The Rotary Youth Leadership Awards are a vital part of our community's vibrancy, and with the students recognized through this program, our future is truly bright,” said Joseph De Vito, president and CEO of The Village Bank, a partner sponsor of the Rotary Club along with Atlantic Advisory Group. 

On February 16, 2023, our club recognized eleven sophomores  for their generous contributions to our communities. Bentley Bassick is the first student from Dana Hall School in Wellesley to receive the award. Jordan Haims attends The Rivers School in Weston. Alyssa Ao, Bowen Morrison, Pariplavi Sontha, Rachel Goldstone, and Reece Davies, Pariplavi Sontha and Zachary Thoen attend Wayland High School. Nate Whitworth, Oliver Moon and Sarah Zhang are Weston High School sophomores. 
Over dinner at the Weston Golf Club, the students spoke to Rotary members, parents, principals and business executives about the wide variety of community service initiatives they had completed, earning them nominations from impressed members of our communities. The evening’s festivities included each winner highlighting the service projects that led to their selection, along with  informal table-by-table chats as Rotarians, students, and their families learned more about each other and how our club might help further each student’s service activities.

Many of the students will attend the Rotary Youth Leadership Award conference in June with 200 other high-impact rising juniors from Massachusetts. 

The Rotary Youth Leadership Award winners prioritize "service above self," which will be a positive factor when they apply to college. According to Marcy Fischer of Collegiate Coach, who is sponsoring one student to attend the conference, "service is an important factor in the college admissions process, demonstrating a student's commitment to positively impacting their community and beyond. These students have already distinguished themselves." 
The award-winning students celebrated at the February, 2023 event include: 
Alyssa Ao is an active member of several community service groups, including Girl Scouts, where she is working on her Gold Award project. She is a member of the Wayland Student Corps and the National Arts Honors Society. She led various community service events, organized holiday concerts at Sunrise of Wayland, a senior living center, as well as  a charity sale this summer that raised over a thousand dollars for Cradles to Crayons. Alyssa is co-president of the Art Club and designs artwork as Graphics Editor for the Wayland Student Press Network. Every Sunday, she volunteers as a teaching assistant for a class that helps young students learn how to play chess.
Bentley Bassick was moved to do something about homelessness after visits to Boston. She found Winter Walk, brought it to her school, and hosted  the head of the program to speak about  the importance of understanding the plight of the homeless. She has mobilized Dana Hall to participate as a school and led the effort to raise funds and awareness. 
Bowen Morrison's work at Camp Arrowhead demonstrates his commitment to “service above self.”  His kind-hearted spirit shines in his work with people with disabilities. Bowen volunteered for three weeks in 2022 and plans to return in 2023. Additionally, he and his family have formed a team for the Run to Home Base, which supports the Home Base program that serves veterans and their families.  
Jordan Haims has volunteered with the Heated Lions for six years, coaching those with special abilities in basketball. He is the program’s head volunteer coordinator, and is on the Board. He has also volunteered with special abilities baseball, the Challenger League, for seven years. He led the Rivers School program hosting a Special Olympics basketball tournament. He is also looking to start the Wo-City anglers program, introducing kids in Worcester to the joys of fishing.
Nate Whitworth leads by example. He is on the Student Council and is team captain of the boy's junior varsity soccer team. He is the first to volunteer to help carry the giant Gatorade container (by history, this is a freshman role and never a captain's role). When asked who is the most respected kid in the class, sophomores identify Nate.
Oliver Moon has volunteered at Drumlin Farm, Land's Sake Farm, and the Weston Rec center, where he worked with children attending summer camp for several years. He has also volunteered at Cradles to Crayons and the Rotary's Christmas Tree sale. He clearly demonstrates his commitment to academics, athletics, and his graduating class  in the time and energy he dedicates to each as a student, teammate, volunteer, and leader. He is a young man motivated to help others! 
Pariplavi Sontha is a student mentor/leader for our non-auditioned chorus. She helps lead sectionals, helps prepare students for auditions, and also learns the non-auditioned chorus repertoire as another voice in the choir. Pari always goes above and beyond and gladly serves others. She also works hard to challenge herself and has taken the initiative to learn a German lieder song and some Italian art songs. Pari realized this year that she wants to be a teacher because she likes helping people. This year, she also joined the Tri-M Music Honor Society to help serve others in our community.
Rachel Goldstone is always willing to help, whether raising money for student scholarships for a trip to France or helping in her temple teaching kids. She is also an active member of her temple youth group and a member of the soccer team.
Reece Davies is an excellent and passionate soccer player and coach. He volunteered to assist novice adult coaches with limited soccer experience to guide a Wayland M6 soccer team. He attended twice weekly practices and games for the entire season and was a positive, enthusiastic role model for the boys. He taught the boys fundamentals and connected with them personally, providing the perfect bridge between coach and player. Reece gave up over 50 hours of his time and was an invaluable help to our team. 
Sarah Zhang is a member of the Weston High School Principal's Advisory Council, where she advises Principal Peri on the issues most important to the student body and  helps him obtain  student input in order to  address the school’s most important challenges.
During Covid, Sarah served as Co-Head of Distribution of KPP (Kids Print to Protect) - KPP group 3D printed over 2,000 face shields and distributed them to frontline health workers at various hospitals. Additionally, Sarah launched a small crochet business on Etsy to raise money to donate to children with medically related hair loss. She has volunteered for Weston Pumpkin Fest, at her church as a teaching assistant, and at senior centers with piano performances, choir singing, and craft activities. She has co-directed and choreographed a musical show performance 'Alice in Wonderland' for a group of 20 gymnasts. 
Zachary Thoen is on a path to becoming an Eagle Scout, which requires 14 months of leadership work. Zack has been the Senior Patrol Leader on many weekend outings, where he is in charge  of the Scouts, including assigning assistants to support him, communicating clear expectations, planning meals for the group, and being the first point of contact for the Scouts before contacting an adult. Sometimes, Zack likely wanted to go to bed, but until his Patrol was safely in tents for the night, he stayed up and worked through issues as they arose, which they always do.

October 2022 RYLA Winners

An enthusiastic group of friends, family, and of course Rotarians gathered at Weston Golf Club on November 17th, 2022, a to celebrate Weston Wayland Rotary Club’s latest group of RYLA scholarship winners. In addition to a delicious dinner, the evening’s festivities included each winner highlighting the service projects that led to their selection, as well as informal table-by-table chats as Rotarians, students, and their families learned more about each other and how our club might help further each student’s service activities.

The 2022 RYLA scholarship winners celebrated at the November 2022 event were: 

​​​​​​Alex Cross, Weston High School co-founded KidsCanBoston, created to give back to local charities. Among other projects, KCB organized a “Game On” charity event that raised $10K for Hope and Comfort, an organization that provides hygiene essentials to those in need. Alex is also a peer leader for WHS’s Sources of Strength, a program designed to celebrate the personal strengths of the LBGTQ+ community and encourage help-seeking in times of trouble.

​​​​​​Andrew Kim Weston High School, a cellist who uses music in his volunteer work to bring communities together, provides live concerts for seniors and others who may not have access to such entertainment and is also an elected class officer. 

Cailyn Kim, Rivers School, cofounded an east Asian-focused camp for 8–11-year-olds, volunteers regularly with her church, and interned at the “design the future” camp, helping expand its reach to campers from disadvantaged backgrounds and developing an app to simplify text for a woman with cognitive disabilities.

Ellie Katz, Beaver Country Day School, volunteered to handle public relations, including setting up/managing an Instagram account, distributing posters, and photographing dogs/participants for the Rotary Club’s 2022 Pooch Parade & Festival fundraiser. Last summer, Ellie also participated in the Tenacity program that supports literacy and provides tennis instruction for Boston youth.

Liam Frenzel, Wayland High School, spearheaded a community fundraising effort to provide medical equipment for newborn jaundice care in Ukraine. Hospitalized himself with jaundice as a child, Liam’s campaign on gofundme, social media, and local community events raised over $4,000, supporting the purchase of five phototherapy devices for Kyiv hospitals.

Lucas DeFilippo, Weston High School, uses his fluency in Mandarin and German to help elderly and immigrant populations decipher and correctly interpret and fill out forms and official documents through families associated with local Chinese schools, programs for immigrant families, and their K-12 children.

Reva Datar, Wayland High School, served as class president her freshman year and ran several successful fundraisers. Reva has won several awards for her journalism, and her hard work helped the Wayland Student Press Network win the prestigious Pacemaker award in 2022. Reva also participates actively in the WHS Debate and Science Olympiad teams and is VP of the high school ACLU. 

Spencer Gary, Rivers School, is a regular volunteer with Boston Cares at My Brother’s Table in Lynn, recently completing 100 hours of service in every aspect of the operation from making sandwiches and serving meals to washing dishes and packaging food.

William Zhang, Weston High School, is passionate about robotics and innovation, seeking to better his community by teaching kids to innovate over the past four years—teaching students in multiple states online during COVID. Now he is partnering with the Weston Arts and Innovation Center to offer new courses and community resources. William is also the founder and president of the WHS 3D Printing Club and the Innovation/Invention Club. 

Yiannis Smirnakis, Weston High School, has volunteered at Cradles to Crayons for several years and volunteered at a school in Tanzania this past summer.


              Weston Wayland Rotary Club 2022 RYLA Award Winners

February 2022 RYLA Winners
On February 10, 2022, the Rotary Club recognized ten high school sophomores from Wayland and Weston as the second group of winning students for this academic year’s Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA). The students and their families joined members of the club at a festive dinner and awards ceremony at the Weston Golf Club. As part of the evening, many of the students shared stories of their leadership and community service work.. This inspiring group truly exemplifies the Rotary ideal of “Service above Self”. 

The winners recognized in February were:

 Jayanth Mani (Wayland High School)

Jeffrey Asare-Danquah (Weston High School)

Kailas Srinivasan (Wayland High School)

Eliana Tillman Schwartz (Weston High School)

Selena Liu (Wayland High School)

Hannah Marill (Weston High School)

Sam Brande (Wayland High School)

Max Ding (Weston High School)

Sophie Roman (Wayland High School)

Katya Marchant (Weston High School)

October 2021 RYLA Winners

In October 2021 at its semi-annual Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) ceremony, the Rotary Club of Weston and Wayland recognized the achievement of five high school sophomores who demonstrated "service above self, focusing on leading and community service." Now in its fifth year, the RYLA program recognizes high school sophomores from Weston and Wayland in ceremonies held in the Fall and Spring.
This Fall's RYLA winners were:
Amith Saligrama, a Wayland resident who attends the Commonwealth School in Boston.
Caleb Graupera, who attends Weston High School
Samuel Connor, who attends Wayland High School
Darrell Johnson, who attends Weston High School 
Tanas Kazlas, who attends Wayland High School


February 2021 Award Celebration

On February 25, 2021, the Rotary Club celebration of eight generous sophomores from Weston and Wayland. Subsequently, the Weston Media Center produced a 1-hour television program that featured each student who won the award: Madison Jenkins, Caroline Curley, Ella Kim, Nicholas Cross, Theo Luu, Natalie Rassiger, and Maya Lee.

At the beginning of the show, Zoe Hughes, Wayland Class of '18, shared the impact of her own RYLA experience, which includes both attending and returning as a Group Facilitator.

To conclude the celebration, Wayland and Weston High School principals Allyson Mizoguchi and Paul Peri congratulated and wrapped up the evening eloquently. 

RYLA Video: 3-minute Summary of Award Program that Recognizes Sophomores

Click on the video thumbnail to see the video. 

Coverage of 2019-2020 Rotary Youth Leadership Award Program and Recipients


Coverage of 2018-2019 Rotary Youth Leadership Award Program and Recipients

RYLA Award Winners Discuss Community Service, Weston and Wayland Town Crier, May 30, 2019, recognizing ten high-impact, high-potential sophomores who attend The Rivers School, Wayland High School, and Weston High School. 

Family Ties Launch Sophomores’ Service, Weston and Wayland Town Crier, April 4, 2019, recognizing Noah Lee of Wayland and Daanish Qureshi of Weston. 

Weston and Wayland students combine sports and volunteering, Weston and Wayland Town Crier, March 28 2019, recognizing Alyssa Azzam of Weston and Jason Haims of Wayland. 

Weston and Wayland students connect with communitiesWeston and Wayland Town Crier, February 26, 2019, recognizing Julia Kofman of Weston and Abigail Gavron of Framingham.

Weston and Wayland sophomores earn Rotary award, Weston and Wayland Town Crier, November 29, 2018, recognizing Emily Rubin of Wayland and Shraddha Lulla of Weston. 
Weston-Wayland Rotary honors first students of new school yearWeston and Wayland Town Crier, November 2, 2018, recognizing Jacey Hinton of Eston and Victoria Andreasen of Wayland. 

Coverage of 2017-2018 Rotary Youth Leadership Award Program and Recipients

Wayland and Weston students honored by Rotary, Weston and Wayland Town Crier, April 19, 2018, recognizing Zoe Hughes of Wayland and Arno Ohlenbusch of Weston. 

Diverse service experiences for Weston and Wayland students, Weston and Wayland Town Crier, March 13, 2018 recognizing Robert Mosher of Weston and Rohini Ramesh of Wayland. 

Weston and Wayland youths make local and global impact, Weston and Wayland Town Crier, February 8, 2018, recognizing Kevin Wang of Wayland and Nathaniel Luu of Weston. 

Wayland and Weston youth latest recipients of award, Weston and Wayland Town Crier, December 7, 2017, recognizing Kayla Poulsen of Wayland and Eleni Polymeros of Weston. 

Impressive Recipients of Rotary Youth Award, Weston and Wayland Town Crier, November 2, 2017, recognizing Julia Cleary of Wayland and Afnaan Qureshi of Weston. 

New Rotary award to recognize Weston and Wayland sophomores, Weston and Wayland Town Crier, September 25, 2018