What happens when two hundred high school sophomores stay at WVU for a weekend? A leadership seminar. Hugh O’Brian Youth is a seminar for sophomores in high school focused on leading yourself, your community, and your world. HOBY, as it is called, has been around since 1958, and has seventy seminars across the country every year. I attended the seminar in Morgantown this year. Somehow managing to balance work and fun, HOBY was educational and enjoyable most of the time.
The seminar’s main point was leadership, and the organizers definitely drove that home, but there was fun involved too. Most of the speakers were more than qualified to lecture a room of teenagers about how they could influence their world. During the HOBY seminar, we don’t just talk about leadership. Every seminar has a mandatory service project where teens can put into practice the skills they have learned. My group went to a youth camp and helped them set up beds and cubbies for the summer season. While dragging iron bedframes up mountains, you meet many kinds of people from all across the state. After attending HOBY, I firmly believe that bluegrass pickers can be found everywhere. Bluegrass has become a passion of mine, and I was extremely pleased to find at least two people who could play really well at the seminar. However, the main point was always leadership.
Although HOBY was an educational and interesting experience, it was not all fun and games. My introduction to HOBY was a crowd of staff screaming “HOBY HUGS!”. I said “HOBY what!?”. Apparently it is a tradition to welcome the ambassadors by swarming them with hugs. Not my cup of tea. Another thing that I found unnecessary was PMA—Positive Mental Attitude. During PMA, we would use every chant from every summer camp ever invented—Little Red Wagon, Pizza Man, and dozens of others. It seems to me that we should be doing something other than chanting during a leadership seminar. Although the application specifically states that HOBY is not politically motivated, most of the speakers had the same political beliefs, and were very vocal about them. The organizers did not do a very good job of bringing in speakers from both sides of an argument. HOBY is good at teaching leadership, but there are still places to improve.
Overall, HOBY was a great experience. It does an excellent job of teaching leadership, while still staying mostly fun. Most importantly, it is the only place where many of these teens really get to study leadership. This allows them to go back to their communities and make a difference. HOBY teens return home ready to work, yet prepared for adversity.