Rotary members guide area youth
Most students who attended the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards at Lake Tahoe last spring did not get a guided tour along the way.
Unless they were the eight riding with Mike Cowley or Gerald Odor.
The two Rotary members from the Yuba-Sutter area not only drove their own vehicles, but stopped at sites like Empire Mine State Historic Park in Grass Valley, Donner Summit and Squaw Valley where the Winter Olympics were held in 1960.
Students from Yuba City, Marysville, Faith Christian, Sutter and East Nicolaus high schools attended the conference, which helps high school juniors grow as youth leaders. Eight students are picked every year, although the high schools sometimes vary.
The Rotary clubs contribute $550 per student to help fund the conference.
"It's really a trip about them," said Odor, who has made the treks with Cowley for about eight years. "It's for them to have fun, to get to know each other. Mike and I probably get a lot of energy back from them."
Cowley credits Odor for adding much of the information on the trip.
"Gerald really adds a lot of the extra tidbits. He's like Mr. Knowledge," Cowley said. "It was his idea to stop at Empire Mine. You know, a lot of these kids are from the east side of the river and they had never been there. They didn't know that they got gold out of the mines."
Odor said he's been able to research facts online to help supplement his knowledge.
He added that he and Cowley have also tried to incorporate the ideas of youth leadership throughout the trips as well.
"The camp is held for them to make decisions as leaders, so on each stop we try to bring that into it," Odor said. "We also do some silly things like a card game to help them interact with each other."
Jane Lee, a Yuba City High student who went on the trip, said because of the extra effort of Cowley and Odor, the students got to know each other better. Lee said she still keeps in contact with others on the trip, via e-mail.
"We definitely developed a bond," she said. "There were kids from other areas of Rotary and they were so amazed. We would ask them questions about what they saw on their ride and they would say, 'Huh?'"
Cowley said one of the students' favorite stops is Pizza Junction in Truckee. Lee said Odor and Cowley bought about 12 pizzas for everyone, although they really only ate about six.
Odor is from Sutter-Buttes Sunrise Rotary and Cowley from Marysville Rotary. Both say there's joy for them when they hear the students speak about their experiences on the trip.
"Every year we think that we can't get better groups, but they always surprise us," Cowley said. "There's always something special. The last group was really happy to come up and speak at Rotary. The students always impress you."
One Nation: Mike Cowley & Gerald Odor
Category: One Nation
Nominees: Mike Cowley & Gerald Odor
Nominator: Jane Lee
I would like to nominate Mike Cowley and Gerald Odor for the "One Nation" award. They have both contributed greatly to the community, especially to the youth, as individuals.
Every year a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Camp is held at Lake Tahoe where high school students are given the opportunity to continue their growth as leaders. As if that weren't enough, the Rotary clubs provided transportation for the students to and from the camp.
For the past years, Mike Cowley and Gerald Odor have gratefully been the drivers. Although other Rotary clubs chose to ship the students to camp via bus or a silent drive straight to camp, these two men have gone far beyond their calling by planning many interesting stops along the way for our enjoyment. They gave eight kids the opportunity to make many memories at the Empire Mine, Donner Summit and Squaw Valley while adding their charisma along the way.
The entire camp experience would not have been the same had it not been for Mr. Cowley and Mr. Odor. What could have been an uncomfortable pickup and dropoff was transformed into special bonds, thanks to these special men. Aside from volunteering to drive, Mike and Gerald are well known, well liked and active Rotary members who are constantly contributing to the community.
In addition, Mike also volunteers to build homes with the Mexico mission trip through his church and always makes any experience more delightful with his obvious passion for kids and entertainment.
After my acquaintance with Gerald, it is evident that he is renowned for his concern for others and his hard work, which is oftentimes behind the scenes.
I am sure that the contributions by Mike Cowley and Gerald Odor to the community are endless and I hope that their actions are recognized.