A Rotaract Council will be held for the first time on 20 May during the Rotaract Preconvention Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.
At the three-hour council, which will be modeled after the RI Council on Legislation, Rotaractors who are registered for and present at the preconvention meeting will be able to consider and vote on nonbinding resolutions to change the Rotaract program. The Rotaract Council's recommendations will be reviewed by the 2011-12 Rotaract and Interact Committee, then considered by the RI Board of Directors in September 2011.
A Rotaractor proposed the idea for the Rotaract Council during a question-and-answer session with 2010-11 RI President Ray Klinginsmith at the Rotaract Preconvention Meeting in Montréal, Québec, Canada, in June. Klinginsmith liked the suggestion and moved the proposal forward.
"I'm excited about this, and I think Rotaractors are as well," he said. "This is a recognition of the important role they'll play in the future of Rotaract.
"The Rotaract Council will give Rotaractors the opportunity to make some decisions about which direction the program will go," Klinginsmith added.
An e-mail has been sent to presidents of Rotaract clubs and their sponsor Rotary clubs with information about the council, including the Proposed Rotaract Resolution Form necessary to propose a resolution. Rotaract clubs should update their club's contact information to make sure they receive future information about the council.
Rotaract clubs will be able to propose up to two resolutions to be considered by the council. Each resolution must include a statement of purpose and effect and may be no longer than two pages. Rotaractors will then have an opportunity to vote online to determine the order of consideration for the resolutions. More details about that vote will be provided later.
Resolutions will only be accepted on six topic areas: Standard Rotaract Club Constitution and Bylaws; Rotaract Statement of Policy; the 18-30 age range for membership; Rotaract alumni activities; Rotaract program name, emblem, and motto; and RI fees and dues for Rotaract clubs and their members.
Although the Rotaract Council will be modeled after the RI Council on Legislation, there will be notable differences. Because all attendees of the preconvention meeting will be eligible to take part, participation will not be geographically representative. Decisions by the Rotaract Council will also be advisory and nonbinding.
Last year, about 300 Rotaractors attended the preconvention meeting in Montréal. Attendance is expected to exceed that for the 2011 preconvention event.
"The creation of the Rotaract Council demonstrates President Klinginsmith's and Rotary International's responsiveness and commitment to Rotaract," said Dong-Joon Lee, chair of the Rotaract and Interact Committee. "Hopefully many Rotaract clubs around the world will actively participate, and in the process shape an even brighter future for Rotaract."
Antonio Herrera gets emotional every time he is reunited with Past RI Vice President Jerry Hall, his host for a Rotary Youth Exchange in 1980.
Herrera, then 16, came from Chile to stay with the Hall family in Reno, Nevada, USA. He says he will never forget how Hall spent a couple of hours every day after school helping him read books that his teacher had assigned.
"He would make me read the books back to him," Herrera says. "I couldn't believe his genuine interest in my learning the language. The values I learned from Jerry and his family were instrumental. They made me a part of their family, which is why it's always emotional when I see them again."
Herrera is now vice principal at a middle school in Syracuse, New York. In 2003, he became a member of the Rotary Club of Syracuse Sunrise. Although work obligations have forced him to take a temporary leave from his club, he says it's important for exchange students to stay involved with Rotary.
"Youth Exchange opened so many doors for me," Herrera says. "Learning another language helped me tremendously in being who I am today."
Hall says the experience is equally rewarding for host families.
"The magic part of Youth Exchange is that you learn from the student, and the student learns from you," says Hall, a member of the Rotary Club of Reno. "Even though we live in other parts of the world and have different cultures, there are so many things we have in common.
"Antonio was a very serious and studious young man," Hall adds. "He always asked the extra question. His curiosity to learn our culture was remarkable."
Hall has gone on to host 13 students since Herrera, and says each has enriched his life in ways that are hard to describe.
"Seeing students mature is always rewarding," he says. "Youth Exchange is an opportunity to make a real difference in a young person's life."
The most difficult part is when the student goes back home, Hall says. "It's like when a family member leaves home. The bond you forge with students is so strong."
Hall believes the most important part of Youth Exchange is communication.
"Host families must be sure to make their student comfortable," he says. "It's such a good program. It changes how people see each other. We have a lot to learn from other cultures if we take the time."
The bond between Hall and Herrera remains strong 30 years later. They see each other every few years, and most recently met up during the RI Convention in Montréal, Québec, Canada.