L4S Winner: Cameron Gehlert – HOBY Missouri, 2016

“HOBY opened my eyes to a clearer definition of what my volunteer service should be about: change, growth, commitment and continually re-evaluating those components. HOBY helped me recognize my service did not have to be limited to my own backyard.”

I have never been afraid to talk to people but through HOBY I recognized the need to develop deeper partnerships with the businesses in my community.  Those relationships are no different from family ties and they have to be re-examined as time passes.  I was not re-evaluating my service goals with a broad enough stroke until I learned through HOBY how to do that.

It is important to continually grow and push past comfort zones to move toward a more aware and mature life.  The HOBY experience gave me a new mindset in looking at the world and my place in that world! The primary focus of my volunteer work is white paper and cardboard recycling but I am expanding into electronics and scrap metal as well.  I am committed to recycling and environment preservation with no intention of stopping!

My original call to action came in 8th grade when I realized how much white paper went into the trashcan at school. There was no recycling program offered within the school system so I decided to change that! After a supportive conversation with my parents to purchase collection bins for the classrooms and assistance with transport since I could not drive on my own until July 2016, I started recycling campus-wide. Initially, the difficult part of implementing the program was explaining “why” to people. As I shared what the effects of landfills were on the environment there was a spark of interest stirred among the students and teachers for change and increasingly supported by the school administration. The paper-recycling program now runs smoothly with the proof there every two weeks when I empty 40, 18-gallon recycling bins.  The average yearly landfill diversion results in 14,000 pounds of paper and other recyclable materials like plastic bottles, newspapers, and magazines being recycled.

After the paper recycling process streamlined, I expanded into cardboard when “Santa” presented me with a vertical cardboard baler in 2014. I started contacting hometown businesses where I noticed cardboard tossed into dumpsters. Now, I officially coordinate with several local businesses to bale and recycle their cardboard. As folks see me working, more businesses want to join my route.  The average yearly collection of cardboard baled and recycled is 18,000 pounds and the volume keeps growing!   I am proud of my work and efforts to make my community environmentally friendly!


Recycling is hands-on work but it also requires networking and development of community and stakeholder relationships.  I regularly collect cardboard from several businesses in my hometown but take the time to visit with other potential partners.  We brainstorm ideas for developing a solution to collect their recyclable waste without significantly increasing their burden.  Probably the largest challenge of recycling is making it as easy or streamlined as possible or the relationship will likely fail. Networking with organizations like the Missouri Recycling Association (MORA) provides me an opportunity to learn about new recycling alternatives or potential legislation affecting the environment from group leaders and professionals.  I have visited with State Legislators to discuss their vote on upcoming proposals with environmental impact.  The contacts and mentors developed through MORA have given me a strong foundation as a future recycling professional.

My commitment to recycling is rooted in caring for the environment and a desire to make the world a better place!  HOBY opened my eyes to a clearer definition of what my volunteer service should be about; change, growth, commitment and continually re-evaluating those components.  Prior to HOBY, I narrowly defined my activities and myself by community boundaries.  HOBY helped me recognize my service did not have to be limited to “my own backyard”.  My personality is already a giving nature but the HOBY experience matured my thinking about the impact I am making.




What is L4S?

HOBY’s Leadership for Service Program (L4S), a national community service program, was created exclusively for HOBY alumni to:

  • Raise the public’s awareness of young people as a resource for community problem-solving
  • Prepare young people who have attended HOBY to take on meaningful roles in community improvement initiatives
  • Develop and foster the capacity of individuals, organizations, and institutions to provide meaningful service and leadership opportunities for youth.

Through L4S, HOBY alumni are encouraged to continue logging all of their community service and volunteer experiences in the years following their participation in a Community Leadership Workshop (CLeW), a State Leadership Seminar, the World Leadership Congress (WLC), and other International HOBY programs. 

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