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A Camp of People Just Like Me


            My dad and I are driving down the road searching for the entrance to HOBY (Hugh O’Brian Youth) Leadership Seminar. It's not going too well, as we've passed quite a few places that look like the University of Charleston campus but aren’t. We're giving up and setting our sights on a Taco Bell sign farther up the road when we drive past three or four psychos waving signs in the air. Must be for a carwash, I think, until I realize that they say HOBY on them. We laugh and turn. The university campus is a complete contrast to the sign-wavers. Everything is calm, shady, and quiet. Trees are everywhere, and I can see other kids my age being led around. A guy standing in the middle of the street points to a parking spot. Once the car stops I notice that there are three or four crazy people outside. I open the door and someone yells, "HOBY Hug!" and hugs me. I see a flash; someone else has taken my picture. That was the start of my four-day stay at HOBY.

                Along with about 140 other sophomores, I experienced lots of things during the leadership seminar. Most of our days were taken up with participating in panel discussions about different subjects. First, we heard from Secretary of State Betty Ireland about being a leader in our community. Over the next few days we heard from both sides of the mountaintop removal argument, we talked about entrepreneurship with some successful business owners, we participated in a crime scene activity, we did some community service, we heard from a NASCAR representative, we heard from the Speaker of the House, we talked with a radio DJ, and we talked about weighted grades with school principals. One thing that made all of these mini-seminars easier was their format: 5 or 10 minutes for each of the speakers to introduce themselves and their views, and then about 45 minutes for us to ask the speakers about the subject. It wasn't just us being lectured to. This fit much better with the way I've been homeschooled than some other things I've been to. 

While the daytime activities were lots of fun, so was our free time. There were two dances, which were really energetic. I even won the air guitar contest! We had a talent show where we had everything from cello solos to Napoleon Dynamite skits to rap duets. Surprisingly, our dorms were clean and our floor even had a ping-pong table and an off color TV. We had a lot of fun late at night in the hangout room!

                I was the only homeschooler there, which I thought would be weird but it wasn't at all. Everyone was really cool and nice. It was like I had been tossed into a camp of people just like me!

There is SO much more that I could tell you about HOBY, I could go on and on for days. 

Basically, HOBY was one of the best experiences of my life, and I encourage anyone who is going to be a sophomore next year to go! I went this year representing WVHEA, and I've got to thank them for letting me go.

Oh, yeah, by the end I too was hugging random people. HOBY hugs!

-- Connor Sweeney