District Governor

Debbie Hale
Debbie Hale

Debbie is a member of the Rotary Club of Salinas Steinbeck, and is serving as our District Governor for the Rotary year 2023-2024.


District Governor’s Column
Changing Lives with Youth Service

So much of what we do as Rotarians involves reaching out to those less fortunate.  Another important part of Rotary is investing in the future:  our youth.  From Interact, to Camp Royal to Youth Exchange, Rotarians love to mentor children and young people.

In this photo, I am posing with Evelyn, who I met at our Soledad Empowering Women and Girls event, a collaborative program of Monterey County Rotary clubs, where we provided lunch, free school supplies, diapers, menstrual products and interview clothes for women and their children.  The fair also had an inspiring panel of women leaders – the mayor and city council members, the District Attorney, and a non-profit director.  I was honored to lead one of the breakout sessions on preparing for interviews and creating a resume, with a group of high school girls. They began to think about what their strengths and interests were, and how to talk about them without feeling self-conscious.  Genevieve Armendariz, Carmel Valley Rotarian and Miss Monterey County, has led our event team, which has held fairs in King City and Soledad.  She’s working to schedule an event in the Valley as well.  Our next Women’s Empowerment event will be on May 18 in Greenfield – come join us!

Youth Exchange is another way that we empower young people to grow and expand their view of the world.  As a former youth exchange student, I can say that living in another country opened my mind.  I learned that French people in 1982 thought that all Californians surf (only true here in Santa Cruz) and that all we eat is McDonalds (more like In-and-Out Burger).  It’s sad to see that after so many years of a robust program, our Youth Exchange numbers for next year have dwindled to two outbound students.  In fact, my own Steinbeck Rotary has hosted inbound and outbound youth exchange students nearly every year since we formed (except during COVID), but this year we had no outbound students.  I understand that if we can find host clubs, our District can still host more inbound students next year. If you and your club want to make a new friend for life, contact our Youth Exchange Coordinator, Lee Blankenship, right away to host.  If you are inspired by the program, we are also looking for Youth Exchange committee members.

Another flagship Rotary youth service program is Camp Royal – our Rotary Youth Leadership camp.  The Camp, which this year is June 9 – 13 at Lake Sequoia, has launched an impressive outreach campaign led by its videographer Calvin Nemeth.  He has visited 42 clubs, where he showed his video of student testimonials and shared his story about how Camp Royal changed his life.  The key to the camp is that it is student-directed in a world where young people have been told what they can and can’t do their whole lives.  Their leadership skills bloom when they get the chance to make their own decisions within the safe environment of the camp.  I am thrilled that my Rotary club has 7 boys and 7 girls interviewing to attend this year, after having a much smaller applicant pool last year.  Get those camper applications in ASAP!  And remember that if you can’t fill your pre-paid slots, your vacancy will fund a student from another school who is on the waiting list.  If your club wants to get more involved, this year Camp Royal is also seeking lunch sponsors.  Reach out to Camp Royal Chair Nic Giannandrea to get involved in Camp Royal.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a big shout out to all our high school Interact clubs!  At 57 clubs, we have more than our 55 Rotary clubs.  And while we don’t track Interact membership, our Everett Alvarez Interact club has three times as many members as our Steinbeck Rotary Club, which is often true for these school-based clubs.  Around the District, Rotarians have been reinvigorating their Interact clubs in the post-COVID era, as well as forming new clubs at schools without an Interact.  My club has a presentation by our Interact Board of Directors at the first meeting of each month, and it’s always the highlight of the month. Now that we are nearing the end of the year, it is exciting to see what leaders they have become, with many off to prestigious colleges next year. I’d like to think that Interact helped to give them the teamwork, leadership skills and a heart for service that will benefit them through their adult lives. Below is a photo of Selma Rotary’s Lincoln High Interact, a recipient of their District grant funding last Rotary year. Many clubs use their District grant money to help with youth service projects. If you want to do the same, don’t forget that the mandatory District grant training is coming in May.  Contact our District Grants Chair, Doug Brown, if you’d like more information.

Give our Rotarians the chance to meet your talented Interact students by inviting them to our District Conference! We have a special youth rate of $40, or as volunteers. We have two special youth breakout sessions where they can meet our exchange students. Rotarians young and not-so-young can register to Come Play by the Bay in Monterey on May 10 – 12 at Rotary5230.org. All volunteers can up here: https://m.signupgenius.com/#!/showSignUp/10C0945A4A62AA4FDC07-48720198-volunteer

Keep supporting the youth in our communities and around the world!

P.S. – All the rotarians mentioned in this article have their contact info listed in our DACdb.com database. 



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