Ashley's HOBY Birthday - 25 for 25
On April 9th, I will turn 25 years old. For my birthday, I am not asking for gifts. I am asking for help changing the lives of 180 high school sophomores from around the state.
HOBY Illinois Central South is a four-day youth leadership conferenegions of Illinois. This year's conference will take place June 14th - 17th on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington/Normal. Our ambassadors take part in hands-on learning experiences to enhance their personal, group, and societal leadership skills through service and collaboration. It takes over $35,000 to make this happen, and I don't want to help make this happen, I need to make this happen.
HOBY's vision is to motivate and empower individuals to make a positive difference within our global society, through understanding and action, based on effective and compassionate leadership.
If you know me well, you know this organization has had my entire heart since I was sixteen years old. However, most people don't quite know why past the fact that it was an inspirational time that caused me to want to continue volunteering for years to come.
My high school guidance counselor asked our entire sophomore class if anyone would be interested in a "youth leadership camp" that would look great on college applications. I wanted to go to college, and I had never been to an "overnight camp" before, so why not?
My teachers voted on myself to represent ROWVA High School at HOBY Illinois Central South 2009. The more I looked into it, the more I felt extreme anxiety and dread about going. I would know no one there, and I had no idea what I would be experiencing. I pictured over 100 intelligent high school students, dressed nicely, being quiet, and taking diligent notes in notebooks while listening to dry speakers. I told my dad just two days before the conference that I wanted to skip. He encouraged me to give it a chance.
Man, am I thankful for his words that day.
I was immediately placed into a small group of twelve of the most incredible people I could've ever met. My entire life, I had been surrounded by essentially the same type of people. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by such a diverse group of people that somehow felt so much like me. They had passion. They were motivated. They were driven to make a change. As a high school sophomore, I knew I was having the time of my life, but I didn't know how drastically it would change my life forever.
I took a chance by applying for junior staff the year after I attended, and I was accepted. Being on the "other side" of the HOBY conference made me realize so much about not only youth's ability to create an impact, but myself as well. Each year I participate in the planning and execution of a HOBY seminar, I discover more about myself and become empowered to turn these discoveries into positive action.
I am in my second year of being Leadership Seminar Chair, or "HOBY Mama" to our ambassadors, and what a ride it has been. This position has brought me so many incredible friendships, experiences, and realizations about myself, others, and the world I wouldn't have had without HOBY.
When I write things like this, I sometimes try to stop for a second and ask myself, "Who would I be without HOBY?" This is a question I cannot comprehend. I have absolutely no idea who I would be today without the HOBY family and values in my life.
I didn't grow up a religious person, and I'm still not, but when people ask if I have faith, I say of course I do. Because I do. I have faith in this world because I have interacted with some of the most inspiring, kind, and motivated youth that exist on the planet. I believe they have the power to create ripple effects that will change so many aspects of humanity for the better, and I feel an incredible need to keep making opportunities for this idea to happen.