Volunteering with HOBY – Hillary Nicoll

HOBY and PSP Logos

As we talk about the theme of “reviewing” this month on the blog, we want to review with you some 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 Hillary Nicoll (Alpha Theta Chapter ’07, NYMAAC).


Hillary with fellow NYMAAC Volunteers, Patrick Herron and Kate McConnell

Hillary with fellow NYMAAC Volunteers, Patrick Herron and Kate McConnell

My experience with HOBY went through many stages.  From initially being overwhelmed prior to getting to the seminar, to a feeling of treading water to keep pace with the program, then feeling comfortable in my role, to finally feeling a sense of pride for everything my ambassadors has accomplished.  

Prior to the weekend I was very overwhelmed by what was going to be expected of me.  I had never participated in HOBY before, and the amount of information they gave us was a lot to process. I was very nervous but also excited about what was in store. 

Upon arriving at Adelphi University we were immediately welcomed by the other staff members.  They were so excited to have new volunteers as part of the group and were willing to offer us advice for the weekend.  Since most of them were HOBY Alumni (meaning they had been Ambassadors in High School), they were especially interested in how we came to be first time adult volunteers.  Those Facilitators were my lifeline throughout the weekend, and I would not have been as successful throughout the weekend if it hadn’t been for their help.  Even though they had their own groups to attend to, they were willing to help me with questions regarding specifics activities and individuals.  

My group of Ambassadors was comprised of all different types of people from very different types of schools, even though they are all from the NY Metro area.  I was nervous about how the group was going to come together, and can honestly say I’ve never seen a group work more cohesively than this one did.  Throughout every challenge they were presented with they worked together as a team and listened to each other.  My group always continued working together to figure out the next way to attempt the challenge and never blamed someone for an idea that didn’t work.  By the end of the weekend I could not have been prouder of the work they had done and how much they had all grown throughout the course of the weekend.  

Hillary with Ambassadors

Obviously, there were some challenges along the way.  From the expected issue of asking 15/16 yr olds to put away their cell phones to people who just didn’t want to participate.  There is a lot of cheering at HOBY, it’s sort of like color war at a camp meets leadership academy.  That was probably the hardest thing for some of my Ambassadors to participate in.  While it might have taken them a while to get into it, by the end most were cheering, and they ones that weren’t at least could smile and laugh at the situation.  Most surprisingly one Ambassador from my group, who was pretty stoic at the beginning, by the end was the loudest person in the room and took every opportunity to run onstage to lead the cheers.  Once he got very into the cheers the others gave themselves permission to go with it.  I spent a lot of time talking with my group members about how being uncomfortable in a situation is okay, but should not be used as an excuse to sit out.  While I thought being a new volunteer would be a hindrance to my group, in some cases it helped that they could see that I was going through it with them and was pushing myself out of my comfort zone as well.  

Overall, my experience at HOBY was incredible.  I would absolutely volunteer again, and look forward to getting to enjoy it more and being more helpful to my group since I won’t be learning everything for the first time.  It’s hard to put into words what the weekend was like, but it is a life-changing experience for the Ambassadors and was very meaningful to me as well.  I would have sworn that half the time during the weekend my group was looking at me like I was crazy, but speaking to them at the end of the seminar and reading their thank you notes was very emotional and powerful.   They had just as much of an impact on me as I hope I did on them.


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.

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