Region Y Volunteer Spotlights

National Volunteer Week was established in 1974 and is about demonstrating to the nation that by working together, we have the fortitude to meet our challenges and accomplish our goals.  According to Points of Light, “National Volunteer Week is about taking action and encouraging individuals and their respective communities to be at the center of social change – discovering and actively demonstrating their collective power to make a difference.”

Check out some of our OUTSTANDING Volunteers from Region Y: Dris Stephen, Ashley Duchesneau, Malcolm Hodge, Hilary Mills, and Jackie Gorman

HOBY 2011 DrisNAME: Idrissa “Dris” Stephen

AGE: 36


VOLUNTEER SITE(S) and/or PROGRAMS (WLC/ALA/CLeW): FL-M (2010-present), FL-S (2007-present), WLC (2012, 2013, 2015)


Tell us who you are in “real life” (hobbies, personal/family life, work, other volunteer activities, etc): Outside of HOBY, I spend most of my days as a high school language arts teacher and several of my nights as a graduate student. When there happens to be a gap in my typical routine (work, school, HOBY, repeat), I try to unwind by catching up with whatever’s on the DVR or by going on a Netflix binge. My PlayStation 4 is starting to collect a little bit of dust while I finish up my master’s degree, but I’ve been known to spend unhealthy amounts of time on the couch playing sports and role playing games. I also have a lovely collection of books, both print and Kindle versions, so there are always a couple of books in rotation. One day in the near future, I hope to spend a little less time behind the desk and get back to working out and playing real-life basketball on a regular basis.

What should everyone know about HOBY? HOBY represents more than an organization, an event, or even an experience. HOBY is a community connected by the desire to serve, to lead, and to work with others toward the best possible version of our world. It really is quite OUTSTANDING!

We don’t pay you, so why do you make the time to volunteer? HOBY has really taught me that helping others is its own reward. Just knowing that the smallest commitment of time and energy could have a profound impact on someone’s life is enough to make any service experience worthwhile.

How has volunteering with HOBY influenced you? HOBY, without a doubt, has helped make me the best version of myself. I am constantly surrounded by positive influences and examples of extraordinary leadership, dedication, and compassion, for which I am grateful every day. HOBY people are seriously the best people!

What is your favorite quote? “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.” – Joseph Campbell

What is your favorite book and what favorite food would you be eating while reading? I have too many favorite books, but I think Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy would be a good one to read while digging into a large pepperoni and bacon pizza, with extra cheese.

Who inspires you? HOBY alumni. My students. Stan Lee (he gave the world some of it’s greatest pop culture heroes – that’s a big deal).

Best tips for new volunteers? Make sure you listen at least as much as you speak. Learning about your fellow volunteers, your ambassadors, and your community will make you a more effective volunteer and a better person. It’s always better to be the volunteer who knows a lot than the volunteer who just talks a lot!

A.DuchesneauNAME: Ashley Duchesneau

AGE:  27

STATE: Currently live in Tennessee, but I’m originally from Florida

VOLUNTEER SITE(S) and/or PROGRAMS (WLC/ALA/CLeW): Mid-Florida as LSC and Tennessee as Director of Operations

YEARS WITH HOBY: Since I was an ambassador in 2004

Tell us who you are in “real life” (hobbies, personal/family life, work, other volunteer activities, etc): In my “real life” I work as an Executive Assistant at the Nissan North America Headquarters supporting 3 Directors. I enjoy traveling, going on cruises, photography, live music, spending time with friends and family, and I’m a HUGE Dallas Cowboys fan! I also volunteer at the Williamson County Fair where I support the Main Stage Entertainment Chairman and also assist with general operations. I am the oldest of six siblings, three sister and two brothers. Two of my Three sisters will be married by the end of this year as well as one of them is also going to make an an Aunt in September!

What should everyone know about HOBY? I think that everyone should know that no matter where you are, there will always be a HOBY family member nearby. Everywhere I’ve ever been, I’ve connected with HOBY family members who continuously inspire me in various aspects of life.

We don’t pay you, so why do you make the time to volunteer? I make the time to volunteer because of the impact that HOBY had on me when I was an ambassador. I didn’t know what an impact the program would have and it has helped to shape the person that I am today. I enjoy seeing the positive impact that HOBY has on each ambassador and how the ambassadors go on to become Alumni that do amazing things in their communities and across the world. I honestly don’t know where I would be today without the support of my HOBY family. Volunteering at the seminars is second nature to me and when I’m asked why I continue to volunteer year after year, the simple answer is because of the positive impact it creates year after year.

How has volunteering with HOBY influenced you? Volunteering with HOBY has influenced me to continue to grow my leadership skills and to know that there is more than one way to do different things. I’m always re-energized to make a difference after a weekend of working with the volunteers and watching them interact and support each other and the ambassadors. Engaging with the ambassadors to help them realize that they have the ability and power to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others is what keeps me coming back year after year for more!

What is your favorite quote? “DO THE KINDS OF THINGS THAT COME FROM YOUR HEART. When you do, you won’t be dissatisfied, you won’t be envious, you won’t be longing for somebody else’s things. On the contrary, you’ll be overwhelmed with what comes back.” – Morrie Schwarts

What is your favorite book and what favorite food would you be eating while reading? My favorite book is Tuesday’s with Morrie and I’d be eating cookies and milk while reading it!

Who inspires you? My little sister, Summer, inspires me. She has such a giving heart and is seriously the sweetest girl I know. Through everything she has been through and experienced, she forgives everyone immediately and has a huge heart. She wants to make a difference in the world even if it’s just one person at a time. I begged her to come to HOBY to see why I’m crazy about it and she finally gave in to me just a few weeks before the seminar. She hasn’t been able to volunteer with HOBY since she was an ambassador, but she volunteers her time and efforts each week at her church and through Buddy Break each month. Even though we are states apart she is always there for me and I’m there for her.

Best tips for new volunteers? My best tip is don’t over commit. Be excited and ready to learn and experience new things, but get a feel for the programs and don’t over commit yourself or you won’t get to enjoy the seminars as much. Be sure that you leave feeling like you’ve made a difference, because no matter what…you made a difference to someone. It could be another volunteer, a speaker, an ambassador or even a parent. Most of all, have FUN, step out of your comfort zone and be yourself!

NAME: Malcolm Saleem HodgeMalcolm Hodge

AGE: 23

STATE: Kentucky


YEARS WITH HOBY: This will be my 5th year with HOBY Kentucky!

Tell us who you are in “real life” (hobbies, personal/family life, work, other volunteer activities, etc): I am a 2008 HOBY Kentucky alumnus. I attended Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky and graduated in 2014. I plan on getting my masters in Historic Preservation and attending law school so that I can practice Historic Preservation law. I love American history, architecture, photography, advocacy work, and listening to all sorts of music including opera. Some of my favorite opera singers are: Jessye Norman, Grace Bumbry and Kathleen Battle. I also enjoy reading books on colonial America as well as the Progressive era. One of my favorite things to read is a magazine called “American History.” I also enjoy spending time with my close friends and family. My favorite thing to do is to go running at night time; I think it’s so relaxing.

What should everyone know about HOBY?: Youth across this nation and world often feel that they have no place and no position in society. HOBY teaches them otherwise. And it does so through its various programs which focus on youth development. HOBY helps to motivate and inspire youth to take charge and to allow nothing to stand in their way, including their own fears, when it comes to their successes. HOBY tells them that they are a valuable entity of society and they have the power and agency to make the changes that they feel are necessary; whether those changes are amongst themselves, their community or in society as a whole. At HOBY, we allow youth to realize their capabilities so that they can understand their potential as leaders and as adults; and so that our fellow youth can lead us to a new age of civic engagement and social responsibility in the near future.

We don’t pay you, so why do you make the time to volunteer?: I volunteer for HOBY because I truly believe in the cause. When I was young I always volunteered for everything. I didn’t care if it was singing in front of my 4th grade class (which I knew I couldn’t sing), I even volunteered to answer the school’s phone and help the school’s secretary in the principal’s office in middle school. I loved helping others. I basically grew up with a passion for volunteerism and helping others. Somehow I lost that passion and I began to become shy as a little boy; I lost it because I felt that I was rejected by society and most of my peers. I was bullied because I was soft-spoken. During my teenage years I began to question my purpose. I think HOBY allowed me to rekindle my passion for volunteerism as well as help me re-discover who I was as an individual.

How has volunteering with HOBY influenced you?: HOBY has influenced me in many ways and in many ways it still does influence me. It influences me not only as an individual but as a leader as well. I have always been the “advocate” type leader, always advocating for the right thing. HOBY taught me that I should never give up no matter how big or small the issue is.

What is your favorite quote?: “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lots of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”-Robert F. Kennedy (Day of Affirmation Speech)

What is your favorite book and what favorite food would you be eating while reading?: There’s no book that I can say “oh that’s my favorite one.” That would be a boring life for me. I’m not even sure if I have even read the same book twice. Nevertheless, I love reading books about American History, they are my favorite. Does Hot Tamales (the candy) count as food?!

Who inspires you?: I could never give one person all the credit. I think the individuals who inspire me the most are Thomas Jefferson for his ideas on democracy and egalitarianism & Ida B. Wells because she was such a strong crusader for justice and relentless in her efforts.

Best tips for new volunteers?: We’re all volunteers. We’re here for the same purpose! Step up! Voice your concerns! It’s how we grow as an organization. But remember to always be compassionate and kind.

Hilary MillsNAME: Hilary Mills

AGE: 25

STATE: Alabama



Tell us who you are in “real life” (hobbies, personal/family life, work, other volunteer activities, etc): When I’m not losing my voice shouting HOBY cheers, I am a DJ with iHeartMedia. My work allows me to meet so many different people and be a part of so many great events around town. It’s truly a fun job! My loving husband Shawn and I are both proud Auburn alumni and we bleed orange and blue! You can often find us at Auburn football games. I’m also an avid animal lover with 3 fur kids of my own, and I enjoy volunteering with the local humane society.

What should everyone know about HOBY? HOBY is unlike anything you will ever experience. As outstanding of a program as it is, it is so hard to describe to people who have never been involved. All I can say is “You have to see it to believe it.” HOBY is a weekend that will leave your battery recharged. You’ll leave with a smile on your face and feel as if you’re ready to take on the world. It’s that kind of empowerment and energy that keep people coming back.

We don’t pay you, so why do you make the time to volunteer? HOBY not only allows me to reconnect with some of the best people I’ve ever met, but it also gives me a sense of pride in what I have accomplished. I want to share the experience that I had with each year’s new crop of ambassadors. It’s very easy for me to see that HOBY helped me become a better and more giving individual, and I want others to leave the seminar feeling the same way.

How has volunteering with HOBY influenced you? I have been blessed to have been surrounded by so many wonderful people that volunteer with Georgia HOBY. And every year, I’m lucky enough to meet new faces that have discovered a passion for a part of my life that is so important to me. Volunteering with these individuals helps me focus on the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing. And seeing the ambassadors grow throughout the seminar never ceases to amaze me. I always leave the HOBY seminar as a better person knowing that at least one of those ambassadors is going to change someone’s life for the better.

What is your favorite quote? “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is your favorite book and what favorite food would you be eating while reading? Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and I would definitely be eating popcorn!

Who inspires you? I am so lucky to have so many different people from all facets of my life that inspire me. Perhaps my greatest influence is my mother, who taught my siblings and I from a very early age that it is always better to give than to receive.

Best tips for new volunteers? Be open to the seminar’s new experiences, and have fun! At HOBY, you don’t have to pretend. Just be comfortable with who you are and let loose! And cheer LOUD.

Jackie-GormanNAME: Jackie Gorman

AGE: 27

STATE: South Carolina

VOLUNTEER SITE(S) and/or PROGRAMS (WLC/ALA/CLeW): South Carolina Leadership Seminar Volunteer; Massachusetts 2004 HOBY Alumni

YEARS WITH HOBY: 3 active years

Tell us who you are in “real life” (hobbies, personal/family life, work, other volunteer activities, etc): After I graduated college as a pharmacist, I packed up my car and headed on down to Charleston, SC for a new adventure.  I didn’t have a plan; I was just up for a fresh start.  After a few setbacks, I settled in as a pharmacy manager near Greenville, SC.  Not knowing anyone in the area, I needed to network if I was going to keep my sanity and stay out of trouble.  I recalled attending multiple leadership seminars back in high school, but I always remembered the name of one particular one–HOBY.  I figured it was time to “give back” and volunteer after putting it off for so many years while I was earning my Doctorate of Pharmacy.  So, I Googled “HOBY” and signed up as a facilitator for the SC HOBY 2013 Leadership Seminar.  After seeing the impact of the seminar through the eyes as an adult and watching the transformation of the students involved, I was immediately hooked.  I’ve stepped up to the plate and have taken on the role of Leadership Seminar Chair this year for South Carolina.  Even though I have moved to North Carolina since I have started volunteering with South Carolina’s HOBY Seminar, the relationships that have been made there are ever-lasting.  In the little spare time that I have when I am not saving lives as a pharmacist and doing HOBY-related work, I love to experiment with new recipes.  I have stumbled upon some really neat oil, vinegar, and spice shops in the Greenville area as well as in North Carolina.  Cooking has always been a passion of mine and a great stress reliever.  To work off the calories consumed by my cooking experiments, I enjoy hiking.  Living near the Blue Ridge Mountains has been such a treat!

What should everyone know about HOBY? HOBY is life-changing to anyone who attends the seminar–even to an adult facilitator.  Being able to witness the spark that ignites these students to go out and change the world is contagious!  I know I am a better person today because of the volunteer work I do with SC HOBY.

We don’t pay you, so why do you make the time to volunteer? How can you not?  When you find something you are so passionate about and truly believe in, it just becomes second nature to want to get involved and stay involved.

How has volunteering with HOBY influenced you? Since volunteering with HOBY, I have looked for more opportunities to use my knowledge as a pharmacist to volunteer in the community.  I am working with a local free health clinic to coordinate free educational seminars for their patients and the general public.  It is just one way I can give back, and it is so rewarding!

What is your favorite quote? A setback is a setup for a comeback.

What is your favorite book and what favorite food would you be eating while reading? I do not have a favorite book; but I do enjoy murder-mystery novels by James Patterson.  Chocolate covered fruit/nuts or candy.

Who inspires you? My fellow HOBY volunteers.  The commitment they have shown to HOBY and volunteering outside of HOBY is phenomenal.  It inspires me to want to keep giving back.

Best tips for new volunteers? If you truly want to get involved and stay involved, speak up and follow up!  There is a lot of work that can be delegated out to reliable volunteers; sometimes directors are hesitant to assign projects because they have been let down in the past.  If you show that you are able, willing, and capable, the reward will be that much more when you see the seminar unfold and you recognize the impact you had in the success of it!

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