F0ur Midlothian High School sophomores traveled to Harrisonburg, Virginia, over the weekend of June 1-3, 2018, for the Hugh O’Brian Youth Virginia Leadership Conference (HOBY) . During their weekend in Harrisonburg, they stayed in the James Madison University dorms and ate meals in the dining hall, truly getting a feel of what it is like to be a real college student.
HOBY is a non-profit organization and leadership seminar that helps grow the capabilities of young, maturing leaders and strengthen them as a whole. Their mission is to “motivate and empower individuals to make a positive difference within our global society through understanding and action based on effective and compassionate leadership.” The conference accepts high school sophomores from across Virginia, but the seminar exists throughout the United States and other countries as well; such as: Canada, Iraq, the United Kingdom, Korea, and Turkey. It is considered an honor to be accepted into this seminar, as it is a worldwide, important opportunity for those who accept the challenge. This year, Ben Mccormack, Alexis Murias, Cameron Long, and Ashley Manheim represented Midlothian High School in this seminar.
Throughout the weekend, students participated in different leadership-driven activities, such as: games, projects, and discussions. On the first day, they arrived at the school and received their dorm assignments, where they met their roommates from across the state. All four students felt nervous and anxious as their stay at JMU kicked off, unaware of what the weekend held. During the rest of the day, they heard from different speakers and chatted with the members of their assigned space-themed groups. Also, the student leaders engaged in a Colors of Leadership test, in which they learned how they lead other students or what their “leadership personality” is. This test proved very educational for Midlo’s representatives, and through this knowledge, they grew as leaders.
On the second day, the young leaders participated in a service project for children at the Painted Turtle Camp; for three hours, they created comic books, picture frames, and jars filled with words of wisdom for children with severe medical conditions who attend the camp. At this camp, kids experience true fun with new friends who understand what they go through on a daily basis. The HOBY representatives later solved different projects based on their interests. During these projects, natural leaders emerged, and the students learned about leadership through this activity. The students ended the night with an awesome dance party with tons of new friends from across the state.
On the last day, the ambassadors felt sad to leave all their new friends and the conference that they grew to love over their time spent at JMU. Before they left, they heard from HOBY alumni and members of the seminar’s Junior Staff, who guided the students throughout the weekend. They spoke to the students about their experiences after HOBY, and how they took on the HOBY Leadership for Service Program (L4S), for HOBY alumni who complete and log 100 hours of community service following their seminar. The Junior Staff challenged the representatives to take on this challenge as well, and they encouraged them to change their communities like they had impacted their own.
Midlo’s HOBY ambassadors responded to questions about their time at the conference:
Ben McCormack: “I thought it was a fun learning experience, filled with lots of positivity. The most important thing I learned is to be more open-minded, what kind of personality I have, and how I should interact with other personalities. My favorite part of HOBY was the cheers. I do plan on completing the challenge.”
Cameron Long: “I went into HOBY kind of shy, not really knowing anyone, but by the time the weekend was over, I felt like I had made 11 new best friends. It was truly life changing, and I’m very thankful for the wonderful opportunity I had there. The most important thing that I learned there was probably that there are many different kinds of leaders, and they all work differently, but you just have to find out the right way to work with everyone to get the task completed. My favorite part of HOBY was either the dance on Saturday night or the spirit breaks, where we would do different cheers during the seminars. I plan on completing the L4S challenge and being on the Junior Staff next year.”
Ashley Manheim: “On the car ride to James Madison, I wasn’t sure what it would be like; however, as soon as I arrived and met all the wonderful people there, I realized the weekend would be awesome. I really enjoyed my time there, and I feel it was very educational, as well as fun. The most important lesson I learned at HOBY was what type of leader I am when we took the Colors of Leadership test. I got green, which means I’m always thinking and analyzing things, and I rely on my brain to take me where I need to go. When I learned about some of the other colors, it helped me to realize that not everyone thinks the way I do, and sometimes I need to explain myself more and be more supportive of different types of people with brains that work in numerous different ways. My favorite part of HOBY was probably when we had team time because I really enjoyed my team; I also liked the dance party and the different speakers we heard from as well. The service project was also awesome. As for the challenge, I will definitely try to increase the amount of community service I participate in, and the challenge sounds amazing, so I will see if I decide to complete it or not in the coming months.
Alexis Murias: “HOBY inspired me to make a difference and motivated me to become a catalyst for positive change in my community through action and service. I had so much fun, and I’m sad it’s over. The most important thing I learned was to be inclusive of others and embrace diversity. With HOBY recognizing over 200 leaders from over Virginia, I had the opportunity to meet others from different schools with different backgrounds and ideas. I was open to suggestions and willing to work with them. My favorite part of HOBY was the service projects, which benefited the Painted Turtle Camp for children with disabilities. I had a blast working with my group and creating inspirational note jars and picture frames for them. I loved knowing that I made a difference in their lives with this small act of kindness. I do plan on completing the L4S 100 hour challenge; not only because I plan on returning as a Junior Staff next year, but also to challenge myself to take what I learned from the HOBY leadership seminar and put it into action.”