Since 2011, I have been lucky enough to be a part of an organization called the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Foundation (HOBY). HOBY is a state leadership seminar designed to help high school sophomores recognize their leadership talents and apply them to become effective, ethical leaders in their home, school, workplace, and community. This year, the HOBY Colorado leadership seminar was held in Denver, Colorado, at the University of Denver. The seminar is typically four days long with an average of 200 high school sophomore ambassadors in attendance from different schools across Colorado. This seminar is run purely by volunteers and generous gifts from donors across Colorado.
In 2011 I went to HOBY as an ambassador from Granada High School. HOBY was such a great experience that as soon as I was able to go back, I leapt at the chance. In 2015, I was an Assistant Facilitator and was able to help lead our group. Then I was given the opportunity to be a co-facilitator during the 2016 seminar. This position gave me the opportunity to help lead eleven individuals to teach them about personal leadership, group leadership, and societal leadership. We played leadership and team building games, navigated through tough conversations and tumultuous moments, and most importantly built relationships that would last a lifetime.
One of the most difficult and rewarding activities we participate in at HOBY is called The Wall. The Wall is an activity where every group of students is given sheets of paper with different words written on them, for example “Men”, “Women”, “Christians”, and “poor people”. The assignment is to then write every word that comes to mind with nothing censored. The next step of the activity is to take all of the papers up to the front of the room and tape them on the wall. The facilitator then discusses what it means to live in a diverse world that is filled with prejudice, bigotry, and hate. The facilitator also talked about ways we could try to overcome these subjects and learn from them to prepare for the future. After the activity, my group met to talk about the presentation. During that conversation, we were able to talk about the world’s imperfections, but that we can be part of affecting those challenges for the better. When 16 and 17 year olds are able to talk about topics people usually avoid and end up wanting to help and make a change, it is an incredibly proud and exciting moment. They want to be part of the change the world needs and I am thrilled to see what my ambassadors will go on to do in life.
When a person volunteers for HOBY, they are not just a volunteer, they are family. HOBY is a huge network of people who love to learn about leadership, make new friends, and change lives for the better. It has changed my life and I will be forever grateful that I have had and will continue to have the opportunity to be part of such an amazing organization. El Pomar was generous enough to donate $500 to HOBY this year to support the conference. It is amazing to be able to work at a foundation that values youth leadership as much as I do.