2021 Conference Theme: Rotary Youth Exchange Opens Opportunities

Panel Topics

  1. Meeting RI (Re)Certification Requirements (including the pandemic response crisis management plan) 
  2. NAYEN in the Rotary Ecosystem: resources you need (what is NAYEN? RI website, handbook, NAYEN training opportunities - targeted to newer YEOs) 
  3. Rocking Interactive Orientations: Train the Trainer
  4. Keeping RYE Pandemic Relevant - engaging clubs and districts (during this “off” years) 
  5. Marketing 101: Getting Traction in RYE Program Marketing
  6. Engaging Past & Present Students: Pandemic and Beyond

Keynote Speakers

Rotary International President Holger Knaack

Holger Knaack, a member of the Rotary Club of Herzogtum Lauenburg-Mölln, Germany, has been selected to serve as president of Rotary International in 2020-21.

The Nominating Committee’s decision follows the resignation last month of President-nominee Sushil Gupta due to health reasons. Knaack will officially become president-nominee if no other candidates challenge him by 31 May.

To build a stronger membership, Knaack says Rotary must focus on increasing the number of female members and transitioning Rotaractors into Rotarians.

Knaack believes that the People of Action campaign offers new public awareness possibilities for Rotary. “This campaign conveys our global image while still respecting differences in regions and cultures,” he says.

A Rotary member since 1992, Knaack has served Rotary as treasurer, director, moderator, member and chair of several committees, representative for the Council on Legislation, zone coordinator, training leader, and district governor.

He is an endowment/major gifts adviser and co-chair of the Host Organization Committee for the 2019 Rotary International Convention in Hamburg.

Knaack is the CEO of Knaack KG, a real estate company. He was previously a partner and general manager of Knaack Enterprises, a 125-year-old family business.

He is a founding member of the Civic Foundation of the City of Ratzeburg and served as president of the Golf-Club Gut Grambek. Knaack is also the founder and chair of the Karl Adam Foundation.

Knaack and his wife, Susanne, are Major Donors to The Rotary Foundation and members of the Bequest Society.

Rotary International President-elect Shekhar Mehta
Shekhar Mehta is only the 4th Indian in 115 years to be nominated as the President of Rotary International for the year 2021-22.
Shekhar Mehta was born in 1959 in Kolkata India. A keen academician, he graduated from St. Xavier’s College, and has the unique combination of Masters in Commerce, a qualified Chartered Accountant, Cost Accountant and Company Secretary.
He heads the Skyline Group engaged in Real Estate Development in different parts of India, including the largest group housing in the state of Rajasthan.
He is member of many professional, cultural and charitable organizations.
He has served as trustee of
(i) Shelter Box (UK)
He is a trustee of
(ii) Operation Eyesight India, a Canada based organization.
Shekhar Mehta joined Rotary in 1985. He is a member of Rotary Calcutta Mahanagar. He served as District Governor in 1999-2000 and was elevated to the Board of Directors of Rotary International for 2011-2013.
He served as Director on the Board of Rotary International from 2011 to 2013. While serving as Rotary International Director, he helped Rotary add 2 countries to its fold – Bhutan & Maldives.
Keenly dedicated to service, Shekhar Mehta has led many major service initiatives in India & South Asia.
Shekhar Mehta is a motivational speaker. He has spoken at hundreds of events nationally and internationally.
His motivation skills are par excellence which has helped raise millions of dollars for The Rotary Foundation.
Shekhar.Mehta is recipient of the highest awards of Rotary International & The Rotary Foundation,
(i) “Service Above Self Award”
(ii) “The Meritorious Service Award”
(iii) “The Distinguished Service Award”.
He will serve as the world leader of 1.2 million Rotarians in 200 countries and geographical areas in the year 2021-2022.
Shekhar Mehta is married to Rashi Mehta. She is a social worker and is a stage artist having performed in socially relevant plays across India. They have a son Chiraag married to Geeta, a daughter Geeta and a grandson Veer. His guiding mantra in life is “Service is the rent that we pay for the space we occupy on this earth”.
Rotary International President Nominee Jennifer Jones
Trustee, The Rotary Foundation, 2019-23
Vice President, Rotary International, 2016-17
Director, Rotary International, 2015-16
Jennifer is the Founder and President of Media Street Productions Inc., a twenty-five-year old, award-winning media company in Windsor, Ontario. She is a proud member of the Rotary Club of Windsor-Roseland.
Her talents have strengthened Rotary reach and impact, through many roles including as Trustee of the Rotary Foundation, RI Vice President, and co-chair of the End Polio Now: Make History Today campaign, raising funds alongside Bill and Melinda Gates and their Foundation.
Jennifer is a leader in cultivating “experiential fundraising” opportunities such as Rotary’s Polio Golf Day with Jack Nicklaus in Jupiter, Florida, USA, which raised over $5.25 million for polio eradication in one day. Or, the innovative, virtual COVID-19 #RotaryResponds event that raised money for COVID-19 relief projects and showcased Rotary’s response across the globe.
Working alongside political figures, celebrities and global leaders, she uses her voice to raise awareness and hundreds of millions of dollars to eradicate disease, support peace and provide clean water and sanitation in developing areas of the world. Her skill as an expert storyteller inspires hope and promise and motivates people to take action.
She has received many honours and recognition, including Rotary’s Service above Self Award and the Citation for Meritorious Service, the YMCA Peace Medallion, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, and Wayne State University’s Peacemaker of the Year Award – a first for a Canadian.
Jennifer is married to Rotarian Nick Krayacich, a local family physician. They share a love for many things including travel, cycling, golf and relaxing at their family cottage; and they share a thirst for adventure, which has included cresting the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa.
Pamela Sitko
At the age of 16, Pamela moved from a rural community in Canada to Bangkok, Thailand for a year. Immersed in big city life for the first time, Pamela was exposed to poverty and the deep injustices that come with rapid, unmanaged urbanisation. Her life changed dramatically as she learned a new culture, a new language and a new way of serving others through Rotary. Deeply moved by her exchange year, she entered humanitarian aid work. For the past 15 years, Pamela has been working in development, disaster and conflict contexts in over 20 countries from Afghanistan to Mongolia to Papua New Guinea. She’s had the opportunity work for the United Nations testing national government disaster plans, undertaking research to influence policy change and deploying to disasters around the world as part of World Vision’s Global Rapid Response Team. After responding to a cyclone that killed 140,000 people in Myanmar and an earthquake that took the lives of 89,000 people in China, Pamela sought to understand what more could be done to protect people from disasters. She studied a PhD on urban disaster resilience in low-income neighbourhoods, hoping to untangle what it means to really be resilient when surviving on a dollar a day. She now lives in Australia and works for the New South Wales state government on bushfire recovery after the devastating Black Summer of 2019-2020. For Pamela, youth exchange has opened the door to a life of service to communities in a way that marries her passion for travel and supporting people to live their best lives.  
Sarah Harper-Johnston 
My name is Sarah Harper-Johnston and I'm originally from Crested Butte, Colorado. It was ten years ago this month, when I first picked up a Rotary Youth Exchange application. Then in August 2011 I left for Denmark where I spent my junior year of high school in a small town outside of Copenhagen. When I graduated high school in 2013, I moved to France to pursue my undergraduate degree at The American University of Paris. I graduated as the undergraduate student government President with a BA in Global Communications and focuses in Political Conflict and Film Studies. While in college and upon graduation I worked off and on in documentary TV production as a producer and completed an internship at a genocide research, archive, and prevention NGO. During my internship I worked as a video editor for their social media and produced videos with the testimonies from genocide survivors for their social media. 
In January 2018, I moved to Myanmar where I worked as an English Teacher Trainer with the US Peace Corps. For two years I lived in a rural town south of Yangon and taught English and trained the English teachers on critical thinking teaching methods, alternative disciplines to corporal punishment, and overall the English language. I finished my full service in March 2020 right before all volunteers were evacuated because of covid and I am now currently writing this bio from Dublin, Ireland. I am a student at Trinity College Dublin where I am pursuing a Masters of Philosophy in Race, Ethnicity, and Conflict. I am also the Rotary District 5470 2020/2021 Global Grant Scholar and would not with here without Rotary's support. My year in Denmark changed my life. I am so thankful to Rotary and honoured to represent this incredible organization as a keynote speaker.  
Melody and Paul St. John
Paul St. John, Treasurer and former Chair of SCANEX, has been a Rotarian since 1984 and has been President of both Malibu and Hollywood clubs, and is currently a member of Rotary Club of Los Angeles (LA5).
Melody St. John, IPDG, SCANEX Chairperson, and Past President of Rotary Club of Hollywood, has been involved with Rotary throughout her entire life as the daughter of a Rotarian. Melody has a passion for youth programs and has been involved with Rotary Youth Exchange for over 25 years.
Melody and Paul have hosted over 22 exchange students in their home. When they hosted their first student in 1996-97, they had no way of knowing how profoundly the experience changed their lives. Never ever having a teenager in their home, they learned about what “today’s kids” were doing and their interests. Now, Fede was from a small community and his family had a ranch -- so the culture shock of coming to L.A. was great for him. He was the light of their lives that year and they decided to host future kids for as long as they were able. What the St. Johns have learned along the way is that the exchanged students didn’t just come and stay for one year and then disappear. The relationships with all their students and their families remains to this day and they have visited a great many of them in their home countries and even attended weddings. The St. Johns are always accepted into the homes of their exchange kids and for that connection and an extended family, they are forever grateful.
Paul St. John was always a train aficionado as well as a global travel addict, and when Fede came to stay, he birthed the idea of Rotary USA Train Tour so they could show their host son what he didn’t get to see while he was in school. Melody and Paul co-founded what is now legend in youth exchange circles, and kids from all over the world, when they learn they are coming to a SCANEX home, begin their plans of going on the infamous train tour, even before they have left their home country. As of summer 2019, over 1,000 exchange students have embarked on the month-long train tour around the United States, and when Facebook hit, groups for each train tour ensued -- keeping the kids in touch long after the train has entered the station. Paul and Melody try to stay in touch with many of them, and when they turn 21, a number have come back to chaperone on the Train Tour. Hoping to resume the tour in 2022 once youth exchange gets back from hiatus.