HOBY: Developing leaders for life

December 03, 2013

Each year, one sophomore from every Maryland high school—public, private, charter, and home—is selected to attend a four-day seminar to develop leadership skills. The seminars are so deeply meaningful that many students return repeatedly as volunteers to help guide subsequent participants.

These programs are important and influential—but little known. The local sponsoring organization is Maryland Leadership Seminar Foundation, usually called HOBY Maryland. It is the state affiliate of Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) International, founded in 1958 by the veteran actor to encourage youth toward lives of “leadership, service, and innovation.” HOBY aims to develop effective, compassionate leaders, and many participants later choose community service careers.

“Guidance counselors and principals generally select the student participants,” says Carol Applegate, president of HOBY Maryland. “It doesn’t have to be the class president or the football star, simply a student who has leadership potential. There are a lot of different leadership skills—how you present yourself, how you work with others. You take what you’re best at and improve the things that need improvement.”

Participants are asked to volunteer for 100 hours within the following year and to post their activities online. Leading by example, all of the 90 adults who make the program possible in Maryland are volunteers themselves. About three-quarters were former program participants here or elsewhere in the country, and their appreciation for the experience is strong and enduring. 

The connections formed through HOBY tend to last, and through the Internet, students arrange mini-reunions and stay in touch. “When the sophomores arrive at the seminar on Thursday, they don’t know anybody,” Applegate says. “But when they leave on Sunday, they have 219 new friends.”

At the suggestion of a HOBY volunteer in Pennsylvania who works at the York County Community Foundation, HOBY Maryland recently established an endowment at BCF. Some gifts to the fund were in memory of the organization’s treasurer, Elaine Williams, who asked that donations be directed to HOBY. 

“Nobody is paid at HOBY Maryland,” Applegate says. “We all have day jobs so we can afford to volunteer. Last year, we raised $70,000 to pay for the programs—the seminar at Mount St. Mary’s University on Memorial Day weekend and Community Leadership Workshops throughout the year. Our financial support comes mostly from community service organizations.”

The endowment will provide a reliable stream of income to the organization, one that will grow over the years through wise investment by BCF and additional gifts from HOBY Maryland donors who want to ensure the future of this far-reaching program.
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