Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) is a transformative experience for many high school students who participate in workshops, seminars and World Leadership congress, and it can just have as much of an impact on the volunteers working with those students. Take it from Bailey Spears (ASU Online Chapter ‘24), who summed up her experience as a HOBY West Virginia volunteer by saying, “There was so much activity jam packed within four days and it was overwhelming, but I have never been happier in my entire life than I was in those four days.”
Spears is studying organizational leadership with a minor in sustainability and communications at ASU Online. Since joining Phi Sigma Pi, she feels that she is a part of a community and has gotten involved as a leader. While she currently lives in Clarksburg, West Virginia, Spears has moved all over the country and says she is grateful to have experienced a life full of diversity and different experiences.
She was never involved with HOBY in high school, but was familiar with the organization as some of her close friends participated. Now, as a member of Phi Sigma Pi, she decided to get involved as a senior volunteer. As soon as she arrived on Marshall University’s campus for the West Virginia leadership seminar, she and her fellow volunteers got to work preparing for the students to arrive the following day, and their dedication continued throughout the weekend.
“There was not one night that the facilitators and staff were not up until 3 a.m. to make sure everything was ready for the kids the next day and that there was enough time to debrief from the previous day,” Spears shared.
The group participated in a service project cleaning up Bethel Memorial Cemetery, a predominantly Black cemetery. “We passed by a huge beautiful cemetery and we thought that was what we were cleaning, and when we showed up to the right one we were shocked,” Spears shared. “There was not even a sign for it, and there was a house draining its pool into the cemetery.” The students and volunteers spent hours cleaning trash, debris, and brushing off the graves.
Spears left her experience at HOBY WV with friends and memories to last a lifetime. She says that watching each student form connections and friendships so quickly showed that the environment provided was exactly what each person in attendance needed. “The bond the kids and staff formed with each other is unbreakable,” Spears expressed. “There is nowhere else in the world that I could compare this to.”
Spears says that she would recommend volunteering with HOBY to anyone interested. After creating friendships with fellow volunteers, she and others decided to volunteer again this summer at HOBY Delaware. Spears will also be on the West Virginia state staff next year to help plan and prepare for the 2023 leadership seminar.
“If there was one thing I can take from this experience,” Spears said, “it is that there is hope for Gen Z, there is hope for West Virginia, and that these kids will change the world.”
Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) is Phi Sigma Pi’s National Philanthropy. As America’s foremost youth leadership organization, HOBY has a long history of successfully motivating young people to develop into outstanding leaders. Learn more about HOBY and find volunteer opportunities here.