HOBY 2019: A Year in Review with the CEO

“HOBY taught me how to be a good leader, that being a leader means not only being connected with others but also connected to the world.”

Azra Gokdenir

2019 HOBY Turkey Ambassador


I am writing this while returning from HOBY’s first-ever seminar in Istanbul, Turkey, at Darusaffaka, a school for low-income orphans and children who have lost at least one parent.  Due to the generosity of Anthony Khoi, a HOBY alumnus from 1977 from Iran, 25 students from Darusaffaka have participated in WLC since 2014.  Anthony and I shared the dream of bringing HOBY to these deserving students in Istanbul for several years, and now, it finally happened.   Over 300 students applied for the 100 available spots.  And as you can see from Azra’s quote, HOBY made an impact.  Seeing these students, who have worked so hard and overcome so much, enthusiastically embrace HOBY, what we teach and expect, was one of the most inspiring moments in a HOBY career full of inspiring moments.  This year had many such moments.

Meeting Milagros Munoz was one.  Milagros’ HOBY experience, reflected in the quote above, is not unique; in fact, it is more common than people can possibly realize.  HOBY changes young people, regardless of age, geography, ethnicity, socio-economic status, etc., into effective, compassionate and inspiring leaders. But you already know that through your personal experiences with HOBY. 

“HOBY opened my eyes to a new world, where you can also make a change even if you are a teenager.”

Milagros Munoz

HOBY Outstanding Young Alumni 2019

Another amazing moment was launching our second program in Uganda with over 150 students joining the HOBY family.  Like the students in Turkey, HOBY is more than a life-changing leadership program.  HOBY gives them skills and hope for a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.  HOBY Uganda continues to grow, with another program scheduled for January and additional growth across Africa planned.

The season of gratitude and kindness is now upon us.  Each year during this time, we reflect on the past year, what we’re grateful for and what we want to accomplish in the coming year.  And, during this time, I feel particularly inspired by the HOBY Ambassadors and volunteers.  Students like Milagros, who reduced dropout rates in her school by creating a community baby shower program for teen moms, which provides donations of diapers, clothes, baby bottles, along with homework assistance and more.  Because of Milagros and the support she gives them, more young women are completing their high school education.  Because HOBY inspired her to make a difference, which would not have happened without the tireless work of HOBY volunteers.

2019 was another rewarding year at HOBY. Registration for state seminars was very strong, with 10,207 students, the highest since 2001.  Though we fell a bit short of our WLC goals, HOBY saw strong international growth. In addition to Turkey and Uganda, mentioned above, HOBY UK grew from about 50 student participants a year, to nearly 400, with new programs in London for the first time.  All in all, nearly 12,000 students participated in HOBY across the globe.

One of the most exciting changes in 2019 is the adoption of the United Nations Sustainability Goals (SDGs) into HOBY.  The SDGs are 17 goals adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.   Here is more information about the SDGs https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals.html.

HOBY adopted the SDGs as a great framework for the leadership and service of our Ambassadors.  The SDGs give HOBY opportunities to connect our mission, work, Ambassadors and volunteers to an active and growing global movement of countries, companies, and people focused on making meaningful and lasting change in the world.   We are integrating the SDGs into the HOBY curriculum, particularly in the Leadership for Service lessons.  The SDGs also create opportunities for meaningful partnerships with companies and other organizations.  HOBY joined the UN Global Compact, an association of over 9,500 companies across the world, dedicated to using the SDGs as the basis of their Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives.

We have big plans for 2020, including growing support for low-income students like Milagros, and the students of Darusaffaka and Uganda.  We are launching two new programs, one in the US and one in Uganda; both using the UN Sustainability Goals as the centerpiece for teaching leadership and service.  These Summits will include advanced leadership training, greater community partnerships and higher expectations from our students.

As we enter a new decade, HOBY is entering a new phase in our organizational and programmatic development, with an eye toward greater impact, a broader global reach, and stronger partnerships.   And given the state of the world, and our country, HOBY is needed more than ever.  We need young leaders truly dedicated to a lifetime of leadership, service, and innovation.  Young leaders who will create lasting, compassionate and effective change in their schools, communities and the world.  Young leaders who will bring Hope to all of us.

Thank you for your role in HOBY’s success.  Whether a volunteer, parent, alumn, donor or HOBY friend, you bring HOBY to students like Milagros or Azra.  You bring hope and inspiration to young leaders and we could not be more grateful.  Thank you and Happy New Year.

Javier La Fianza
Chief Executive Officer
Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership

One Response to “HOBY 2019: A Year in Review with the CEO”

  1. Jutta Thompson December 26, 2019 at 5:30 pm #

    Thank you, Javier, for you tiredless – yet sometimes tired – quest to make HOBY the best youth organization. I am so very, very, glady, to partner with you over the last almost 16 years.

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