Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) is an international leadership organization whose mission is “to inspire and develop our global community of youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service, and innovation.” The four-day Central PA Seminar is held every year in late May, and consists of developing personal, group, and societal leadership skills; participating in a mock legislature on the House floor of the Capitol building in Harrisburg; and a service day as part of HOBY’s “Leadership 4 Service” initiative. HOBY’s motto is “Empower. Lead. Excel” and shares this with high school sophomore ambassadors each year by teaching them how to think, not what to think, so that they can return home afterwards and drive change in their communities and beyond. Throughout the spring, these local seminars are held across all 50 states and other parts of the world, and some ambassadors will then convene in Chicago in July for the World Leadership Congress, where they tackle global leadership and relations.
Why do you think your organization is important and meaningful on campus?
Just like you can’t go very far off Penn State’s campus without running into another Penn Stater, it’s crazy how many HOBY alumni/volunteers you can find in your travels. Being an international organization, there are HOBYs in every corner of the world. The friends that I have made through HOBY are serving as catalysts of change all over the world, and simply those connections and relationships mean more than I can explain. One example of this is my mentor, and now close friend, Beth Awalt, who co-founded the Starfish Foundation in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Starfish provides scholarships, tutoring services, and leadership development for students and their families in the community who otherwise would not have the means to go to school and succeed. HOBY is also important because so often today, we need people that are ready to take on a servant leader role, and understand what it means to be empathetic, yet we find ourselves without competent leaders like this in many organizations. After attending HOBY, I noticed a change in how I approached problems – a change which I have continued to develop to date. HOBY is also a great way to serve in itself, by taking the time to facilitate or coordinate programs/operations at the seminars and influence the experience that this year’s ambassadors have.
How did you decide to take on your role as a Facilitator-in-Training (FIT)?
FITs are facilitators that are ages 18-20; once you turn 21, you’re considered a Facilitator. I was inspired to continue my involvement with HOBY as an FIT after serving on “Team Alumni” during my junior and senior year of high school after my ambassador year as a sophomore. Team Alumni works behind the scenes at the seminar and I specifically served on the “Green Team,” which handled the recycling, composting, and environmental education aspects of the seminar. Each year you apply online for these various roles once the application opens. I was also asked this year to serve as a Section Assistant, which means that I will help a Section Leader (again, someone over 21) with disseminating information from the overall staff to a section of Facilitators/FITs that each have their own group of ambassadors.
How does your work with HOBY give you the opportunity to use your gifts and passions?
Volunteering with HOBY allows me to use my passion for leadership for service, which was originally ignited in me by this organization. I love connecting with people in a fun environment like this and helping them realize their potential as leaders. I always say that I come back to HOBY each year because I want to help new ambassadors have the same experience I did, but I honestly want them to have an even better experience – I just want HOBY to impact them in some way, no matter what that impact is for each individual. And that encompasses my passion of service in that itself, in addition to then leading the ambassadors through the programming, mock legislature, and service projects. HOBY allows me to refine these skills for myself each year as well, by giving me new opportunities to interact with a diverse crowd of backgrounds, personalities, experiences, etc.
Why do you think your organization makes a difference in this world?
I could go on and on about the difference that HOBY makes in so many corners of the world, but the most direct answer I can give here is that it produces tomorrow’s leaders. It is equipping individuals across the world early on with the skills necessary to grow in servant leadership at the personal, group, societal, and even global level. There’s a saying in the HOBY community that goes, “HOBY changed me, so I’ll change the world.” I think this is very descriptive of the spark HOBY ignites in the hearts and minds of so many of its ambassadors, empowering them to follow their passions to create change. The HOBY World Leadership Congress (WLC) in itself is a culmination of the global HOBY efforts each year and brings together leaders from all over the world for the pursuit of service and leadership development.
Anything to say for students who might want to join this club?
Go to hoby.org and find the local seminar closest to your hometown or college town and reach out to the Leadership Seminar Chair about what you can do to help! HOBY is always in need of volunteers (and donations!) for its seminars and CLeWs (Community Leadership Workshops for high school freshmen).