Three years ago and amazing youth shared with me about HOBY (Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership) after completing some volunteer work at Havenwood. As she described her experience and how HOBY impacted her life, I said that sound like something I could get involved with personally. One of the adults supervising the volunteer work, was a HOBY facilitator and she took me up on that offer.
My first year with HOBY, I was blown away. I have attended youth leadership conferences with my children and I have attended adult leadership conferences, but this one was different. The youth engaged and truly developed some leadership skills over the three day weekend. I might have learned more over those three days than the youth, but I was hooked. I didn't really keep in contact with the youth, but was impacted by each. Several of the local youth I ran into during service projects or at their employment.
The second year came, and I signed up to facilitate again. Knowing more what to expect I jumped right in. I was pleasantly surprised that two of my youth came back to be JC's (Junior Counselors) that bring energy and excitement between speakers. The second group I kept up with over social media, offering encouragement and seeing them develop further. I couldn't explain why HOBY meant so much to me, but it became something I look forward to all year.
This year there were a lot of barriers. The training was held on the day of the biggest fundraiser we have for work. I have been under a lot of stress personally and at work since that time. Then I realized that it also fell on the same day as my children's Junior and Senior prom. After discussing it, both my kids said "go". I admit I felt a little hurt that they would want me to go, but the night we set up for HOBY, my daughter said "Mom, we know HOBY means a lot to you, we can come and get pictures and share our prom experience, and those youth need you as a facilitator." After some arranging, the leaders let me schedule for my kids (And their dates and friends) to come up and let me see and get pictures while the HOBY ambassadors were eating.
Saturday night I realized why HOBY was so important to me. After a weekend of great speakers and a day of service and talent, the youth came together and shared about their experience. As I sat there listening to them share, I realized how differently I had been at that age. Almost to the exact day when I was their age, I was finding out that my future would forever be changed because I was pregnant. These youth, were learning that their lives would forever be changed because they could be leaders.
They shared of how they wanted to make a difference for single parents, for hurting teenagers, for the homeless. I realized, I would have never been sitting where they were when I was in 10th grade, because that was not where my thought process was for six more years. I realized that if I was their age, they would be the kids trying to make a difference in my life, and that even 21 year later - they were making a difference in my life.
They talked about how their faith compelled them to serve and act on needs they see. I realized, it would be a lot longer in my life before my faith grew beyond my immediate salvation and in to living as Christ lived in a life of service. For all the negative I hear about today's youth, these youth rose above every one.
Then a young man shared his person journey. It's not mine to tell, so I won't. But it moved me (Which is hard to do) to tears. To hear how this three day weekend (on day 2) had impacted his life so much. He shared about his volunteer service at Havenwood and said "I don't realize how much I took for granted in my home, when I get home I am going to tell my mom I love her. I haven't done that for two years."
Then another young lady and a facilitator shared their story of Havenwood volunteering and how they were impacted by the children there. The youth sharing had no idea that I was the director there, just that there is this big lady at the front of the room who was a blubbering mess! They shared of the impact of one small action, the difference it made to the child they played with and the parent's face of relaxation when it was over as she had some time for herself. Because I knew who they were talking about, and that it was all one family it just made that much more of an impact on me.
There were a few more moments in the larger processing group that moved me, but ultimately I know that HOBY 2014 impacted my life because I was able to see youth looking outside themselves. Many had rough lives, many made sacrifices to be there, but ultimately they are the future of tomorrow.
I feel like I closed a chapter of my life in that room, The little 10th grade girl found healing and the adult women found hope for the future.