For most people, it’s hard to gain self-confidence, increase communication skills, instill commitment to ideals and learn to motivate others in a lifetime, let alone in just one week. But that’s exactly what happens when 160 specially selected high school students head to Florida Southern College in Lakeland for Rotary’s Seminar For Tomorrow’s Leaders.
S4TL, as it is known to Rotarians, offers young people skills to develop into tomorrow’s leaders. This year’s students from Lake Placid were Brisia Fonseca, Nelida Torres and Sophia Hernandez. They joined other “yellow shirts” from Florida Rotary Districts 6890, 6950, & 6960 for the week-long event. The “yellow shirt” designation refers to the colored shirts identifying the participating students. Students who have previously participated and return to assist as counselors wear red shirts.
Students are sponsored by local Rotary clubs and all fees and transportation costs are paid by the clubs. The Rotary Club of Lake Placid sponsored Torres, and the Noon Rotary Club sponsored both Fonseca and Hernandez.
With high level speakers and group activities, students are encouraged to exhibit personal growth and develop leadership skills. Students are exposed to nationally known speakers, coaches and volunteer Rotarians. They practice decision-making and learn the value of giving back to their communities.
One unique feature of S4TL is the “rap sessions” where the leaders of tomorrow are divided into groups of 16-18 delegates. They meet with Rotarians to discuss topics of interest to them. No holds are barred, and both groups learn from one another.
The students are unanimously enthusiastic about the experience. “I enjoyed becoming so close to every single person there. Although there were many tears there was also a lot of laughter. If I could go back to the first day, I definitely would,” Brisia Fonseca explained about her experience.
Sophia Hernandez says, “S4TL was a life-changing experience. The love and support my group members and all other “yellow shirts” gave me meant the world to me. I will never forget the people or the memories. I am so thankful for the opportunity I was given.”
Nelida “Nelly” Torres said, “S4TL was perfection. Everyone showed love and compassion for each other. I had the pleasure to be in the brown town team and got to make new friends. I will never forget my week at S4TL. I would go back if I could! I hope to be a red shirt next year.”
And perhaps she will. The program has been in place for more than 30 years, with life-changing results happening each year.