Volunteers are in short supply these days. Service clubs in Los Banos and throughout the country, to cite one example, have seen a steep drop in membership. Those who still volunteer often feel overworked or burnt out.

And yet we’ve never needed volunteers more, in our city and in our country. More people–from children to senior citizens–need help, and government programs at city, state and national levels can do only so much.

Many reasons have been given for the drop in the number of volunteers. People are more into themselves (and their phones). Many people have to work more, often two jobs, to make a living. And so on, the reasons go.

At the same time, good leaders today are in short supply, at all levels of business and government. There are fewer people willing to work hard to serve the people they lead.

At the same time,  we also see many young people today who seem disengaged or distracted. Adults sometimes wonder if the youth of today, as they grow older, will be able to solve the problems of tomorrow.

Given all of these discouraging developments, I was pleased to see at a recent Los Banos Rotary Club meeting examples of young people who are willing to volunteer and willing to lead.

The local Rotary club invited to an evening meeting high school students who are part of Interact, as well as students who participated in this year’s Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA).

Interact is the high school version of Rotary, composed of students who believe in the importance of service above self. At Los Banos and Pacheco High Schools the number of high school Interact students volunteering to help their community is increasing, not decreasing.

The Interact members I’ve met at Rotary meetings and events this school year have impressed me with their energy, enthusiasm and willingness to help. And the Interact students who take on leadership roles–like president, vice president, secretary and treasurer–have shown they are self-confident and articulate.

“Leadership” is a good word for a transition to RYLA. Rotary Youth Leadership Awards is an intensive leadership experience organized by Rotary clubs and districts to develop students’ skills as leaders. For the Rotary District 5220, which includes Los Banos, RYLA is a three-day weekend experience.

During the RYLA weekend, high school students, as the Rotary website explains, “discover strategies for becoming dynamic leaders in their school or community; learn from community leaders, inspirational speakers and peer mentors; unlock their potential to turn motivation into action and have fun while forming lasting friendships.”

Students considered for RYLA are nominated by high school staff, go through interviews and then are selected by the Rotary club.

The four Los Banos students who participated in RYLA this year were Ava Costa from Los Banos High School and Caidyn Lee, Dominic Mendoza and Michael Maturino from Pacheco High School.

All of them, accompanied by their parents and advisors at the Rotary club meeting, showed poise and confidence as they spoke and described their RYLA experience. All four said they are now ready to take on leadership roles going forward.

Longtime Los Banos Rotarian Brian Rocha thinks highly of the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. “RYLA is important because it gives Rotarians an opportunity to invest in the leadership of the next generation. It has been my pleasure to volunteer and serve at RYLA for our Central Valley students over the past eight years.”

As I listened to the high school students at the meeting, I was encouraged by the spirit of these young people and appreciated the guidance they receive from their advisors, Kaylie Cates at Pacheco High and Kim McCullough at Los Banos High.

I was also reminded of all the good things that adult volunteers on the Westside of the Central Valley are doing–in organizations like the Soroptimists, Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, Elks, Oddfellows, VFW and American Legion posts and CASA (Court Appointed Student Advocates), as well as in Westside churches and faith-based organizations like the Salvation Army. All of these carry a larger burden these days, given the dwindling number of volunteers.

Overall, having listened to service-oriented high school students, I left that Rotary meeting with hope—the hope that young people will indeed be able and willing not only to serve their communities but to help solve some of the many problems in the years to come that my generation was unable or unwilling to solve.