My experience at HOBY
I had an OUTSTANDING time at HOBY (if you know you know lol)! It was a little weird when I first got there because there were a bunch of overly excited facilitators screaming elaborate cheers that none of us knew, but we eventually warmed up to them.
HOBY is a youth leadership organization that has 3 day conferences all over the world for sophomores/rising juniors depending on whether you are out of school at that point. I wasn't sure what to expect from the description of "leadership conference", but I did learn about the different types of leaders and how to best use your skills personally, in a group setting, and for the betterment of society as a whole.
Three kids from my school were selected to attend and I was one of them, along with Mara and Drew. The enthusiasm that the facilitators and junior staff had from the minute we walked in was contagious. They had countless cheers to teach us, some of which they were cheering as we walked in the door. At first, most of us were thinking, "what have we gotten ourselves into...?". It took a few hours to get used to the energy, but soon enough we were almost as loud. A member of the junior staff said something that really stuck with me. She said,"HOBY is one of the only places where you can be super loud and nobody will think you are weird. They'll be confused if you aren't screaming". Her comment made the junior staff and facilitator's enthusiasm come into perspective.
We checked in by 11:00 AM and went to the opening ceremony.
Opening ceremony: The Team alumni, facilitators, and Junior staff told us about HOBY's mission-to inspire and prepare future leaders for a life dedicated to service-and what to expect for the weekend.
My Team: I was apart of team 1. We considered ourselves the "chill team" and got along really well. Surprisingly, we didn't have that one person who dominated every conversation which was really nice and allowed us to all get a chance to convey our ideas. We were a diverse and fun group, with kids from parts of Virginia that I didn't know even exist (Abbingdon lol) and now want to visit!
After lunch, the idea of personal leadership was introduced and what it means according to HOBY, to motivate and empower individuals to make a positive difference within our global society through understanding and action based on effective and compassionate leadership (I know, that's a mouthful). Afterwards, we had a keynote speaker named Andre Davis who came to talk to us about personal leadership and how it plays a prominent role in his life.
Personal Leadership Keynote-Andre Davis: Andre Davis explained how he ended up playing football for the NFL. It was really interesting getting to listen to his story and learning about how he stepped up as a leader in order to lead his team to victory time and time again. He showed that hard work pays off when he was selected in the 2nd round with the 47th overall pick by the Cleveland Browns. His speech was captivating and inspiring, not to mention that he is such a friendly and down to Earth guy.
Leadership in color: After listening to Andre, we took a survey to see which type of leader we were based on 4 different colors. Out of Orange, Green, Gold, and Blue, I ended up being almost equal parts Gold and Blue which means that I am unique, have a strong sense of right and wrong, and try to make a difference in the world, among other attributes. It was cool getting to see what our strengths and weaknesses are and I was surprised that there were even different types/styles of leadership.
Group leadership keynote-Major General Dyess: General Dyess talked about his 36 years of distinguished service and how he learned to lead a group of soldiers who depended on his guidance in order to make it back home safely to their families. His countless accomplishments and love of serving allowed him to become an extraordinary general with an inspiring story.
Leadership colors activity: After dinner, based on the color we most identified with, we split into groups in order to see which group could build the highest tower with only balloons and tape. We realized that every group had something that they struggled with, whether it was creativity or focus. It showed that in order for a task to be accomplished, you need a variety of leadership styles, not just one.
After breakfast, we were introduced to the concept of societal leadership, the final form of leadership.
Societal leadership Keynote-Zahra Wakilzada: Zahra was born and raised in Afghanistan. She came to the U.S. as a refugee in 2015 after seeking refuge in Pakistan in 2013. She was only 14 when she began to question gender inequality in the society she lived and began to write about her daily struggles. It was inspiring to see how optimistic and passionate she was while giving her speech, especially after all the hardships she has been through, including being called a terrorist on American soil simply because of how she looks.
Community service: After lunch, we did about 3 hours of community service by making blankets and care packages for the homeless as well as writing inspirational notes for people in an addiction facility. It was a lot fun getting to spend time with my team and it felt great that we were helping out people in need or just putting a smile on someone's face.
Leadership for change Community panel: We talked about how to put leadership skills into action. A panel of four individuals, who held significant positions in not for profit organizations, came to talk to us about how they turned their ideas into action. Lauren boar talked about her experiences working with special education, Elizabeth Gilkey about being the Director of Development for a Feeding America food bank, Lucia Hoerr on developing her idea of "Backpack buddies", and Micheal Rogers on his role in improving homeless services in the greater Richmond area.
SMART goals: After dinner, we came up with a SMART goal to accomplish in the next year. It had to be specific, have a time frame, and there had to be some sort of way to see if it had been accomplished, among other things. My goal is to start a club at school in the following school year about environmental awareness.
Notes: At the end of the day, we all wrote a little something about each of our team members and our facilitators, so that we'd each have a sweet note from each person and a way to remember everyone.
Dance: Anyone who has been to model UN knows that they always have a dance on Saturday night. Well, this wasn't any different and it was pretty fun. I mean I hadn't been to dance class in like a week, so I figured it was time to get back to dance some way or another lol. There, we got some ice cream. Let's just say that I had ice cream 5 times in 3 days...It was the good life.
I walk away with this: Since it was our last day, we talked about what we learned from the seminar and how to apply it in our communities. I learned about how to implement my strengths in order to solve a problem and when to step back. Throughout the seminar, it was reiterated that a leader isn't always the person who dominates every conversation or who naturally takes the lead on every project, it is anyone who contributes their ideas as well as allows someone else to take the reins in their area of specialty. Anyone can make a difference and do their part to help, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.
Last team time: During our last team time, we talked about our overall experience at HOBY, filled out a survey in order to improve the program for next summer, and went around in a circle saying something memorable about each person in the group. It was neat to see how we had become such good friends in such a short time span and how we were all so different , yet shared this experience with one another.
Closing ceremony: The staff told our parents about what we were up to all weekend and explained how to continue coming back to HOBY as junior staff and then a facilitator. We were challenged to complete 100 hours of community service in the following year in order to be eligible to apply to be part of junior staff next summer.
Overall, I had a great time and am glad that my school chose me to go. I learned a lot about the different types and roles of leadership and how to apply them to everyday life. I made some great friends that I hope to stay in touch with and would love to visit if ever in the area!