Rotary Youth Services

Dictionary Project

For more than a decade, Rotarians have distributed roughly 25,000 student dictionaries to every 4th or 5th grade child in Hillsborough, Highlands, Hardee and Polk Counties. Supporting advances in technology and changes to The Rotary Foundation global funding model, clubs have recently begun taking a more individualized approach to best supporting literacy in their respective localities.

The Rotary Club of FishHawk-Riverview continues the tradition, providing approximately 1,500 dictionaries to students in 14-15 local elementary schools. Beyond the expected words and definitions, our student dictionaries contain extensive reference, such as:

  • The Declaration of Independence
  • The US Constitution
  • Biographies of US presidents
  • State capitols
  • World countries & capitols
  • Basic sign language
  • Braille
  • Planets in our solar system
School presentations are always fun and interactive as the children are told about all the information in their free dictionaries. The kids’ consistent favorite is finding longest word in the English language: a protein containing 1,909 letters!

Over the years, FishHawk-Riverview Rotarians have donated over 12,500 dictionaries to local students.


The Rotary Club of FishHawk-Riverview annually sponsors at least two inbound high school seniors as delegates to S4TL (Seminar For Tomorrow’s Leaders). Beginning on Fathers’ Day each year, Rotarians also transport delegates to and from the week-long event held at Florida Southern College in Lakeland.

S4TL is a powerful leadership training program for high school students. It is organized annually by a board of directors of Rotarian senior staff from Districts 6890, 6950 and 6960 in mid-Florida. This award-winning program is capable of transforming the lives of these young leaders. Each Rotary club in the three districts may sponsor a delegate to the sessions. More than 150 delegates participate every year.

One of the most unique features of the S4TL program is that delegates, based on their demonstrated leadership, may be invited back to assume progressively more responsible duties. Ultimately, much of the program is driven by student leadership that have developed through the S4TL experience.

Another interesting element is the “rap sessions” where the leaders of tomorrow are divided into groups of 16-18 delegates. They meet with Rotarians to discuss topics of interest to them. No holds are barred, and both groups learn from one another.


Each year, the Rotary Club of FishHawk-Riverview donates college scholarships to graduating local high school seniors. Total annual awards range from $3,000 to $5,000. Applications and interviews take place in spring. More than $50,000 has been awarded since the program’s inception.

Annual Speech Contest

Each year, the Rotary Clubs of Rotary International District 6890 sponsor a Rotary district wide speech contest. The contest provides a valuable opportunity for young men and women in our communities to demonstrate and enhance their skills at developing a theme and presenting it to others in a convincing manner. The contest is open to any and all high school students in the area. Each contestant is asked to speak for 5 to 7 minutes on the same theme. A panel of judges evaluate each contestant on delivery, originality, and content. There are three rounds of competition. The first is at the individual Club Level, followed by Group Level competition among 4 or 5 Club Level winners. The winner at the Group Level is entered into the District final round. School administrators should be aware that it may be necessary for the contestants to miss portions of two days of school, based on Rotary Club meeting times. These rounds are usually held at a weekly Rotary meeting. The District Finals are held at a central location every year. Increasing cash prizes are awarded at each level of competition. Club Speech Contest - February 18, 2019 - BOCA Winthrop Town Centre 12 Noon; Ist Place: David Swartzlander; 2nd Place: Katherine Tyson; 3rd Place: Nicholas Gubler; 4th Place Savannah Mock Run Off for Finals March, 12 2019 - Freedom Plaza Golf Clubhouse at 530 for food; Contest at 6:30; desert at 7:30. District Finals - April 15, 2019 Bartow Library 5:30 pm

Reading is Fundamental

Eight to nine times a year, we read to Head Start students at Riverview Elementary School for 16-20 minutes. Each of the 4-5 Rotary volunteers takes 4-5 students to different parts of the classroom where we can read to them. Before leaving, we give each student a book of their choosing for them to keep. The books have been donated or purchased by the club or members. There are two Head Start classes, and we alternate each month between them.

Rotary Youth Exchange

Rotary District 6890 of West Central Florida is a member of Rotary Youth Exchange Florida, coordinating international student exchanges with countries all over the world. The Rotary Club of FishHawk-Riverview hosted Ella Ahvenainen, a 17-year-old student from Finland in 2015-2016 and expects to sponsor an outbound student for the 2016-2017 school year.

Each year, over 8,000 high school students participate in the Rotary Youth Exchange program worldwide. The program began in the 1920s, expanding rapidly after World War II. The program’s primary mission: “To work toward peace and understanding in the world.”

Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) programs in Florida are growing through the efforts of the multi-district organization, Rotary Youth Exchange Florida, Inc. Each of the eight districts in the Sunshine State is committed to promoting Rotary Youth Exchange, and at least half of the districts have been honored with District Achievement Awards at the annual conferences of the North American Youth Exchange Network.

Youth ambassadors are selected based on interviews, courage, adaptability, school recommendations, grades, and interest in cultures and languages. Visit to learn about the District 6890 program. Student families are responsible for the costs to get the student to their placement country: an application fee, orientations, insurance, visa and airfare. For more information on Rotary Youth Exchange through the Rotary Club of FishHawk-Riverview, contact Deborah Williams at or 685-5987.

About the Rotary Club of FishHawk-Riverview

The Rotary Club of FishHawk-Riverview envisions a club of dedicated members, a community of engaged citizens, and a world of peaceful societies, where differences are valued, the less fortunate are served, and new generations are inspired to build a better tomorrow.

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