Timothy Peck 4 min read 10th Grade, Extracurricular Activities

What is the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Award?

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The Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Award—known simply as HOBY and pronounced “hoe bee”—is recognized as one of the world’s most prominent organizations focused on youth leadership and is an eye-catching addition to any college application.  

 

What is HOBY?

 

HOBY is a youth leadership organization that identifies the leadership abilities of high schoolers and helps them apply those skills to their communities and the world. HOBY hosts numerous events that explore and develop topics related to leadership throughout the year, including:

 

  • Community Leadership Workshops (CLeW): six- to eight-hour-long introductory events for high school freshmen.
  • State Leadership Seminars: three- to four-day events for sophomores hosted by a university. 
  • World Leadership Congress: HOBY members in grades 10-12 gather with their peers from around the globe to learn how to make positive changes in their communities and become better global citizens. 

 

Once out of high school, HOBY has an active alumni network and a full calendar. Alumni take part in special programming, participate in service projects, and can serve as mentors. HOBY’s alumni network is substantial—there are more than 600,000 around the world. 

 

HOBY Leadership Principles

 

HOBY recognizes that everyone is different and does not try to impart any particular attribute to participants—encouraging self-knowledge, uniqueness, and authenticity. The organization does provide guiding principles for students to incorporate into their lives in their own unique way. Those principles include: 

 

  • Turn values, beliefs, and emotions into action
  • Show generosity and honesty to others
  • Demonstrate personal commitment
  • Empower others
  • Work together
  • Maintain civility 
  • Think critically about societal issues
  • Provide service to the community

 

Through these principles, HOBY has helped young people become catalysts for positive change in their home, school, workplace, and community. 

 

The History of HOBY 

 

HOBY was founded in 1958, by the actor Hugh O’Brian, after spending nine inspirational days in Africa working and volunteering with the Nobel Prize winner Dr. Albert Schweitzer. Early on, the organization was focused on young men in the Los Angeles, California, area, but the success of the program saw it expand nationally after a decade. In 1972, HOBY welcomed young women to join the organization. 

 

Today, more than 7,200 high schools are represented at HOBY—with more than 12,000 students from across the United States attending a HOBY leadership seminar—and the organization remains focused on its original mission: to inspire and develop a community dedicated to a life of leadership, service, and innovation. Over four million volunteer hours have been logged by Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Award alumni. 

 

How Do You Get Selected for HOBY?

 

All high school sophomores are encouraged to apply for a Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Award and the selection process varies from school to school—it can include anything from writing an essay to attending an in-person interview. Following the selection process, the school’s HOBY contact will choose one or two students to serve as HOBY ambassadors. 

 

Excellent academic records are a typical characteristic of students chosen to participate in HOBY, but the distinction is awarded on more than just an outstanding GPA. Common attributes of HOBY ambassadors include: 

 

  • Outstanding communication skills
  • Critical thinking 
  • Creative problem solving 
  • Strong decision making 
  • Charisma
  • Courage 
  • Interest in community service 

 

HOBY school contacts are also encouraged to consider the leadership skills and potential of students when determining who will become a HOBY ambassador. Students selected for HOBY are given a packet to share with their parents or guardians along with a form; that information is then entered into HOBY’s registration portal by the school contact. Finally, participants are required to pay a registration fee—the fee varies depending on the type of event and its location.  

 

With the registration complete and the fee paid, HOBY will then contact the student to confirm the location and details of the event. 

 

How Much Does HOBY Cost?

 

The only HOBY programs with a fixed cost are the organization’s virtual seminars, which are priced at $225. The expense of other HOBY programs varies by the location and type of event being held. Students who can’t afford the fee are encouraged to reach out to their local Booster Clubs, PTA, and other community organizations for support.

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What is Attending HOBY Like?

 

Selection for a Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Award is often called a “life-changing experience.” A large majority of participants are inspired to make a difference after attending an event. According to HOBY, 91% of participants have an action plan to create positive change in their community at the conclusion of a leadership seminar. 

 

Expect full days at HOBY events—participants get up early and have activities scheduled throughout the day. Events take place on college campuses and students are housed in residence halls under the supervision of HOBY adults—all of whom have been background checked and trained. All HOBY programs have a minimum of one adult for every 12 participants, who supervise them at all times. 

 

HOBY events are generally well-received by participants, but quieter students seem to particularly enjoy them. It’s common to hear stories of students “breaking out of their shell” while attending an event.  

 

How Does HOBY Impact Your College Chances?

 

Selection for a Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Award qualifies as an extracurricular activity and demonstrates an interest in volunteering and community service, all of which are of interest to colleges. In the tier of extracurricular activities, HOBY is either a tier two- or a high tier-three extracurricular activity—it demonstrates achievement and a high level of leadership. The downside of it on college applications is that it’s not super exclusive—more than 7,000 students participate. 

 

If you’re unfamiliar with the four tiers of extracurricular activities, they’re as follows:

 

  • Tier One: The most exclusive and impactful activities—these demonstrate exceptional achievement, usually at a national level, and are rarely seen by admissions officers. 
  • Tier Two:  Show high levels of achievement and leadership (usually at a state level) but are a little more common than those of tier one—such as HOBY.
  • Tier Three: Demonstrate leadership, but are a more common achievement. An example would be being a leader in a school club.
  • Tier Four: Common participatory activities, like volunteering, or being a member of a club or sports team.

 

There is even more subtlety to the tiers of extracurricular activities, which is why an activity like HOBY doesn’t fit cleanly into a single silo. CollegeVine’s free chancing calculator breaks down extracurricular activities even further to give you a clear sense of importance in college admissions—it also uses factors such as GPA and test scores to predict your odds of admission at over 600 colleges. Sign up for a free CollegeVine account today to start using this valuable tool!

 

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Timothy Peck
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.