HOBY Leadership: Virtual Edition


Isabella Hart, EMC Staff Writer

Last year, I applied to attend the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Conference (HOBY). HOBY is an organization dedicated to “training and nurturing the young leaders of tomorrow.” Their mission is to provide lifelong leadership development opportunities that empower youth to achieve their highest potential and gain knowledge of leadership skills. The seminar was initially supposed to be hosted at SUNY Oneonta in May, however it got pushed off until September due to COVID-19, and then it was supposed to be held in Silver Bay, NY. Due to COVID-19, the conference was all virtual and they sent us a Seminar-in-a-box! The box held a t-shirt, a pin, an umbrella, a service activity (trash bags to pick up litter), a certificate, a letter, and a few more things. They sent us everything we would need for the seminar!

At first, I was very apprehensive about an all virtual conference. It was held September 19th-20th, and I was expected to sit in front of a computer screen for long periods of time. Every once in a while, there would be a “Screen Break” where you’d leave your computer for 10 minutes and do whatever. There was a designated time for lunch where you could just eat by yourself, or you could attend a HOBY Cafe. Basically, at the HOBY Cafe, you just ate lunch and talked to other people who were attending the seminars. The first day, you could choose your region/county to talk to other leaders near you! The second day, you could choose your cafe room based on your interests! 

During the day, we listened to a few speakers. Lamarr Womble, Shannon Bartlett, and Dr. Addrain Conyers were a few of the speakers. All the speakers were amazing! They discussed topics from personal leadership, societal leadership, and leadership through service. Lamarr Womble talked about personal leadership, and his presentation was just fun to listen to. Dr. Addrain Conyers (a professor at Marist College) talked about BLM (Black Lives Matter) vs BLM (Blue Lives Matter) vs ALM (All Lives Matter). I thought that his presentation was very relevant to everything going on in the world today, and he explained it very well. 

We were also divided into groups by color and letter. I was in Orange D. My facilitators were absolutely amazing, and so was our junior staff! The people in my group were also just really fun. After each speaker, we were able to join breakout rooms with our group! There were also times designated specifically for group time. We talked about the speaker, and reflected on what they spoke about. We did some icebreaker activities, and we were able to socialize with one another. 

At the end of the first day, we were able to hop back onto the Zoom for an optional Escape Room! It was a lot of fun, and we were able to work with other kids from other groups! The next day, there was an optional Game Show Night where we just played games like Jeopardy and Family Feud. On The last day there, somebody from the HOBY Alumni Association talked about how the 2020 ambassadors can still be a part of HOBY. 

For me, HOBY was an amazing experience. Everybody there was super welcoming, and super positive! The staff made sure that you were comfortable. If you weren’t comfortable talking about anything, you didn’t have to speak. I know quite a few people who have attended HOBY and have loved it, but I know a few people who weren’t too big on it. To really enjoy HOBY and get the most out of it, I strongly believe you have to be more extroverted and more on the outgoing side. It may be hard for students to get out of their comfort zone and express their ideas, and/or to fully express themselves. If you do, get out of your comfort zone, it’s well worth it!

After a weekend of staring at a computer screen, laughs, thoughtful discussions, and making many new friends, I am more than happy to now say that I am a 2020 HOBY alumni!