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HOBY conference wraps up today

Around 260 rising high school juniors were on Troy University’s campus this weekend for the Alabama Leadership Seminar’s Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Conference.

The conference, or HOBY as it is more commonly known, provided the students with the opportunity to develop their leadership skills through group activities and also to hear from various community and business leaders from throughout the state.

“The seminar is all about leadership. We really want the students to be able to form leadership skills while they’re still young before they go to college,” said Jonathan McKenzie, Corporate Board President of HOBY.

“We think it will help them in their college choice and their career and the rest of their lives.”

One speaker that the students had the privilege of hearing was Miss Alabama 2008 Amanda Tapley.

Tapley spoke to the students about the qualities needed in order to be a successful leader.

“Being a servant leader is about putting yourself behind others and serving them first,” Tapley said.

“Humility is a huge part of leadership. It’s about not letting your status as a leader go to your head.”

Tapley also encouraged the students to follow their hearts when making career choices, rather than their wallets.

“It’s not about the money you make. It’s about where you feel led based on the gifts and talents you have,” Tapley said.

According to HOBY Director of Operations Jason Pike, having Tapley speak at HOBY was an important move.

“We have a great relationship with the Miss Alabama Program. Because our ratio tends to be two-thirds young women and one-third men, I think having that strong female leadership example come in is very important,” Pike said.

The students were also expected to learn through experience, rather than just listening.

HOBY partnered with Manna Ministries of Birmingham for a food drive and also educated the students about world hunger in a rather unique way.

“We have what’s called a hunger lunch where one-third of our students will be given a regular meal, one-third will be given a brown paper bag with bread and water and the last third will be given nothing,” McKenzie said.

“Of course, at then end, they all get to eat. But they don’t know that at first. It gives them an opportunity to see how the world is divided and who is blessed with plenty of food and who’s starving.”

Pike said experiences like the hunger lunch help the students to grow as leaders.

“The change that you see in the students and the depth of their growth that you are able to see every year is just priceless,” Pike said. “You can’t recreate that in any other format.”

HOBY will conclude on Sunday, at which time one boy and one girl from the conference will be selected to represent Alabama at the HOBY World Leadership Congress in Washington, D.C. in July.

The selection of those representatives is handled by a group of professionals outside HOBY.

“Once we narrow it down to the top 10 or 12 guys and the top 10 or 12 girls, they are actually interviewed by people from outside our organization on Sunday morning,” Pike said.

“Those professional people come in, and they don’t know these students and they have about a 10-minute interview with each of them, and they really make the final decision on who will represent Alabama.”

Even though HOBY is over for 2009, both McKenzie and Pike said they are looking forward to returning to Troy in the future.

“You cannot do any event at this level without the support of a strong university. Dr. Hawkins has been instrumental,” Pike said.

“Both of his daughters came through HOBY, and so he has a strong belief in the program because he knows how his daughters were affected. They help in every way that they can.”

McKenzie said Troy’s support of HOBY in Alabama was a point of pride.

We go to our national training institute and talk about what Troy does for us and everyone else in the nation is jealous because Troy does so much for this program and they believe in it so much,” McKenzie said.

“You really couldn’t ask for anything better. Whatever we want, we get.”