As we enter our new academic year, we want to remind you about all of the volunteer opportunities that are available through our National Philanthropy HOBY! In June, three our New York Metro Area Alumni Chapter Members volunteered at HOBY NY Metro Seminar. We asked them to reflect on their experience for our blog. Today, we’ll be hearing from Vice President of Philanthropy Development Patrick Herron (Alpha Epsilon Chapter ’96, NYMAAC).
What HOBY programs have you been a volunteer for and as what position?
HOBY NY Metro was my first time volunteering with Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership. I was one of the Senior Facilitators for HOBY NY Metro’s annual Leadership Seminar. There were 148 high school sophomores from the New York City area. Along with my JC (Junior Counselor), I facilitated a group of 9 Ambassadors (high school students) as part of the weekend’s program. There were multiple activities where I was working with other Ambassadors too, but the majority of the time I worked closely with this group. It was an incredible experience! I’m writing this blog post the day after and I’m exhausted, but so filled with positivity and inspiration as I reflect on the past three days.
So, what was your HOBY experience like?
Having never attended as a participant or volunteer, I really didn’t know what to expect. I was actually somewhat anxious and a little overwhelmed before arriving at Adelphi University, the host campus for HOBY NY Metro’s Leadership Seminar. I immediately felt welcomed and supported by the veteran volunteers, many of whom are long serving volunteers and/or HOBY alumni who first experienced HOBY in high school. Their commitment and dedication is so impressive!
Similar to attending Grand Chapter/National Convention, it is difficult to put into words what it feels like attending a HOBY program. Some thoughts that come to mind are infectious enthusiasm and a genuine sense of belonging. I was admittedly surprised at how much I found in common with the HOBY alumni and how invested they were in making sure myself and other first time facilitators felt supported and included throughout the weekend.
All of my Ambassadors (student participants) were first time HOBY attendees. I shared with them from the start that it was also my first time and like them felt at times a little lost and confused with the different activities and the cheers…yes the Cheers!!! I’m not a “cheer” type of person and I am certainly not comfortable with being the center of attention. By the end of the weekend though, I had shed my insecurities (well most of them) and was cheering, chanting, clapping and yes even dancing along with everyone.
Truthfully, the cheers/chants are not something everyone enjoys. They really do help to reinforce that enthusiasm and sense of belonging I mentioned. Some of the Ambassadors I met are what you would consider “quiet” types. They spend most of their time watching and observing others from the outside. Many of them are invisible to others and if given the chance, would retreat into the safety of their iPhones. Scared at being rejected or not included, they build up walls to keep themselves protected. They are quick to reject group activities as “stupid” or “lame” in fear that someone might judge them.
This was the most challenging aspect of my role as a Facilitator. Helping all the Ambassadors feel included, respected, supported and safe. If you’ve ever felt that way in life, and most of us have, you know then how vulnerable a 15 or 16 year old would feel when attending a program with a group of other teenagers they have never met. Each of the nine Empowered Eagles (our group name that they chose) had their own journey over the course of the 2 1/2 day program. Some had a much more difficult time than others. It was difficult to see some of them grappling with their own internal struggles and doubts. It was such an incredible feeling and I was so moved when they no longer looked to me to include them in the activities, but they were cheering each other on and making sure EVERYONE was being heard and included and knew that they all belonged.
How did you get involved with HOBY New York Metro?
As VPPD, I spent many months learning about HOBY as part of our research and vetting process of dozens of potential philanthropic partners. Early on I was intrigued by these weekend seminar events for high school students as they sounded like an approach similar to PSP regional conferences. After the Grand Chapter selected HOBY to form a philanthropic partnership, I wanted to become more familiar with the organization and experience first hand what HOBY offered young men and women. I was very pleased when the Grand Chapter selected HOBY, but now that I have served as a volunteer facilitator, I am thrilled we are philanthropic partners with HOBY!
How do you think HOBY and Phi Sigma Pi are alike?
HOBY represents all types of high school life: class clowns, brains, jocks, drama club kids, popular, loners, weird, quirky, bossy, kind, etc. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
HOBY Leaders, which includes high school students selected to participate in programs as well as those who participated in the past, but continue to volunteer, come from very different backgrounds and life experiences. Similar to Phi Sigma Pi, there is a desire to bring out the best in ourselves and help others do the same. I’ve been a Member of Phi Sigma Pi for over 23 years and have met thousands of Brothers in that time at national events and through social media. Over the course of the weekend, I found myself repeatedly seeing PSP-similarities in the personalities of the Ambassadors I was working with and in they way they were engaging with one another after having met only several hours before. You would have thought these students all grew up together and were lifelong friends and not the complete strangers they were in actuality. It was as wonderful as it is to see how PSP Members bond with one another after only knowing each other for brief periods of time.
Why are you excited for HOBY to be Phi Sigma Pi’s new National Philanthropy?
Our Members are O-U-T-S-T-A-N-D-I-N-G (self indulging HOBY reference) and being Outstanding is a quality that HOBY admires, recognizes and nurtures in young adults. Our respective organizations were formed and evolved completely independent of each other, but the similarities in our values and goals are reflected in one another’s desire to enhance the experiences of young adults, whether at the collegiate level for Phi Sigma Pi or the high school level for HOBY. I believe we not only complement each other organizationally, but can help one another grow and become stronger together!
What is one thing about HOBY our Members should know?
As an undergrad, Phi Sigma Pi offered me an amazing opportunity to grow as an individual and make friendships that I cherish. I continue to volunteer and offer financial support as an Alumni Member because I want to ensure all the Collegiate Brothers of today have the same opportunities I did in college. HOBY is committed to developing young adults’ abilities to be confident, compassionate, caring, dedicated leaders in their schools and communities. These are all qualities of the prospective members that Phi Sigma Pi seeks to join our Fraternity and among the qualities we aim to help cultivate after becoming Members. More importantly though, Phi Sigma Pi Members have a duty as good citizens committed to philanthropic service to help support the next generation of high school leaders whether they become members of Phi Sigma Pi or not. HOBY and Phi Sigma Pi want to help make our communities a better place and together we are stronger.
Interested in volunteering at a Seminar? Applications open for HOBY Seminars across the country are open NOW and you can volunteer for much more at hoby.org/volunteer.