What does HOBY mean to you?
When we talk about HOBY, especially alumni, it is important to understand that person’s HOBY Story and how it affects their daily life. A HOBY Story is how one relates their HOBY experience, in terms that anyone can understand. My HOBY Story is very simple. I needed and will always need HOBY in my life. This is because I experienced something no one should ever know during my sophomore year of high school, the same time I first learned about HOBY. I learned what its like to not know what really happened to your family. I thought that my older brother Ryan passed from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), but I learned this was not the case. During freshman year, the police told my family that they were investigating the death of Ryan. After months of anxiety and uncertainty, my family was forced to relive the death of their eldest son all over again. Because of Ryan’s murder trial, I was unable to attend most of my sophomore year and felt alienated among my peers. It was because of this experience that my family sent me to HOBY PA East. There I learned how outstanding people can be and I created a network of friends that help me cope with the loss of my brother daily. HOBY is important because it can come into one’s life when they need it most. This is why I advocate for active participation in the HOBY community.
What did you learn at the Advanced Leadership Academy?
When I decided to attend the Advanced Leadership Academy (ALA), I thought that it would be like every other HOBY event; I quickly realized that this was not the case. HOBY ALA taught me that what I wanted to do had to be realistic to my abilities and align with my motivation of the cause. Because I had organized and fundraised in the past, I knew that Viking Legacy was possible — especially because of the struggles students were dealing with — causing me to think harder about what I wanted to do in the future.
ALA taught me what it is like to grow up. No longer was HOBY just about optimism and excitement (don’t worry, that was still there), but this seminar focused on the technical aspects to leadership.
I think the most important thing I learned at ALA involved connecting-the-dots. Think about it this way: without ALA, there are only seminars and WLC. What did these events teach us? That we have the ability to challenge the world and make it better, no matter our age. Great. What next? Well, nothing. The only thing next is an ambassador’s will to push the limit. While I naturally push the limit, I do not think I would have pushed so soon. HOBY ALA is important because it completes the circle of what its like to be a HOBY. No longer teaching us what we “can” do, now it teaches how. ALA makes the meaning and success of HOBY tangible, measuring the types of projects we take on and giving the organization feedback.
What was your ALA Action Plan?
At Upper Merion, seniors are required to actively participate in the school and engage the community through a Senior Graduation Project. When I got back from ALA, I convinced my friends, Jon Glenn and Kevin Crowe, to combine our projects to have a bigger impact on our school. Our project was composed of three core elements: Once A Viking, Always a Viking; Viking Unity Day; and the Viking Legacy Fund.
In Phase I, Kevin and the senior class sold t-shirts to fundraise money for the family of a murdered alumnus. The funds were used to place a memorial stone in our school courtyard. In Phase II, Jon presented his senior year research on mental illness and the prosperity of youth during Unity Day to a forum that included all Upper Merion student and faculty.
In Phase III, my project came from the need to organize and finance Jon and Kevin’s projects. The Viking Legacy Fund was to provide students with funds in their time of need, from a house burning down, to help paying for a funeral. Through fundraisers during the year, we financed the memorial stone and catering for Viking Unity Day as well as additional funds that were left for the school.
By the time graduation came, Jon, Kevin, and I weighed the options, and could have continued the Viking Legacy mission while in college, but thought it should be left for future generations. This project has a deeper meaning because it taught us what its like to devote your time and energy to a specific cause and helped us advance time management skills. ALA has helped me understand the types of projects I want to take on.
What does coming back on ALA staff mean to you?
HOBY has helped me with so much in life, that it makes it hard going even just a year without the organization. I have applied every year to come back on alumni team, and every year I don’t get accepted. I don’t think it’s a statement of who I am as a person, just a statement of how many HOBYs there are trying to be a part of this outstanding organization. The application process became so discouraging that it made me wonder if I should even keep applying. It was funny though, because I participated in so many HOBY conferences (PA East’12, WLC’12 and ALA’13) and completed my ALA project, my story was used at training seminars; the very same seminars that I wanted desperately to go to. I almost didn’t end up applying this year, but a friend reached out to me and told me to apply, and sure enough I did.
After a few months, I got a call from Matt Vlies asking me if I would like to be a part of ALA. I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy. For the first time ever, I was extended an invitation to come back and help. After receiving the selection as an Assistant Project Coach, I could not believe it. I never thought that the small project I did would provide me with the opportunity to assist HOBY students as they decide how they are going to change the world. I still cannot believe that I am coming back to ALA as a staff member.
Why should students apply to ALA?
Students should apply to ALA because you never know what things will be like until you do it. All of the HOBY seminars have made me the leader I am today. HOBY PA East taught me that I have potential; WLC taught me that I have a place in the world; and ALA taught me how to use my potential to change the world. You should apply to ALA because ALA will open your mind and make you realize that you can do whatever you put your mind to. You shouldn’t need ALA to teach you that you can do anything, but if you need us we’ll be there to help you realize your potential.