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Dowagiac Rotary Club sends Kurdelmeyer to RYLA camp

Published 9:04am Friday, September 25, 2009

Andrew Kurdelmeyer sped first up a 50-foot rock climbing wall blindfolded like a sports car, but he learned he's a minivan at heart at Rotary Youth Leadership Award camp. Pictured with Kurdlemeyer is Rotarian Doug Stickney. (The Daily News/John Eby)
Andrew Kurdelmeyer sped first up a 50-foot rock climbing wall blindfolded like a sports car, but he learned he's a minivan at heart at Rotary Youth Leadership Award camp. Pictured with Kurdlemeyer is Rotarian Doug Stickney. (The Daily News/John Eby)

By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News

Andrew Kurdelmeyer sped first up a 50-foot rock climbing wall blindfolded like a sports car, but he learned he’s a minivan at heart at Rotary Youth Leadership Award camp.
Car categories characterize leadership styles.

Andrew learned a minivan is less outspoken so he can “listen and help others.”
Andrew, a Union High School senior, wide receiver on the 3-1 Chieftain football team and son of James and Nicole Kurdelmeyer, might have suspected, though, that the “L” in RYLA stood for language, since his assigned “Indian” tribe spoke Russian and Japanese.
Leadership style isn’t as important as producing results, program chair Doug Stickney said Thursday.

“There are different types of leaders. Some are boisterous, others are quiet, but they get the job done,” the retired banker from Edwardsburg explained to Dowagiac Rotary Club at Elks Lodge 889. “You don’t have to be just one type of leader.”

Stickney thanked the club for supporting RYLA with $8,000 to send 40 students to the weekend leadership camp at Battle Creek Outdoor Education Center on a lake.

“What we’re doing when we send the youth of our community to RYLA camp is helping them develop their leadership skills,” Stickney said. “They do that by problem-solving and working together as a team.

“The most important thing is that they come back to Dowagiac High School and interact with their fellow students and with the community. It’s a two-way street. They have a lot more to give because they have learned some very valuable leadership skills. And they’re able to lift up other students in hopes the community will be better than it was before. We (Rotarians) have a real role in that and we have been dedicated to that.”

Stickney said Andrew was selected from three applicants because he alone completed an essay expressing his interest.

While Marilu and Mike Franks and Barbara Groner have been directly involved in the program along with Stickney, “We couldn’t do it without the club and the club’s willingness to step forward and send these kids to camp. It’s a low-cost program for the good that comes out of it.”

“The other thing,” Stickney added, “is these kids are going to be the leaders of tomorrow, taking over when we pass the baton on. They’re going to be the new Rotarians, sitting where you are right now. This is the caliber of students we’ve been sending to camp. They’re good leaders before they go, but they’re better when they come back.”

Andrew personally thanked Rotary for giving him the opportunity to attend RYLA camp and to groom skills that helped him not only at camp, but he can transfer to DUHS and to the gridiron. “It showed me I can step out and say what I felt needs to be done to solve problems.”

Campers divided into three tribes. Andrew was put with the Chippewas. The only person he knew was Luke (Mrs. Klett’s niece’s son), a 6-foot-2, 260-pound Lakeshore tackle.
“We had one girl from Japan, one girl from Russia and one girl from Ukraine,” he said. “It was hard to communicate with them for the activities. The food was really good. They fed us well, and there were a lot of brownies and cookies.”

Andrew said after high school he expects to attend a community college, then transfer to Michigan State University or Ferris State University, but he has not yet decided where to concentrate his studies.

One activity Andrew really enjoyed was the “insane” rock climbing wall.

“It was intense,” he said. “The objective was not to climb the wall, but to spot the person so you could save them if they fell and to motivate people while they’re climbing in case they got stuck. I climbed with the girl from Russia and had no idea what she was saying. A lot of people had trouble, and I tried to motivate them as best I could.”

Another activity Andrew liked, called Nitro Cross, involved maneuvering their team through a rope course laid out like a spiderweb.

“You couldn’t touch the rope or you had to restart,” he explained. “You had to get every person in your group on the other side, over the ropes or under them … Luke carried us” until they realized there was no one left capable of carrying him.

“There was nobody left but the little Japanese girl, who weighed about 85 pounds.” They ran out of time in the hour activity.
Asked if he would recommend RYLA camp to other prospective students, Andrew said he would.

“Some people I know should go. They have ideas, but they never want to speak out and say what they have to say.”

Perhaps Andrew’s least favorite activity proved to be putting together a catapult.
“All the boards were warped,” he said. “It took an hour and a half and our egg only shot a foot.”

Kurdelmeyer, who also plays basketball and baseball, was accompanied by his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Larry Klett.

Klett is a past president of the Lakeshore club, which sends four students to RYLA – two from Stevensville and two from Bridgman.

Klett serves as auctioneer for the Christmas fundraiser his club started last year.
Everyone is asked to furnish a wrapped present in the $10 to $20 range and to categorize it as male, female or family.

“Bidding gets some of them up to $50,” Klett said. “I think we raised close to $600.”
A memorable bidder was the attorney who offered $50 for jinglebell rock – literally a stone draped in jinglebells.

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