HOBY seeks to teach rising high school juniors ‘how to think, not what to think’

The Alabama HOBY Youth Leadership Seminar opened at Troy University for its 20th year on the Troy Campus. (TROY photo/Joey Meredith)

The Alabama HOBY Youth Leadership Seminar opened at Troy University for its 20th year on the Troy Campus. (TROY photo/Joey Meredith)

For TROY alumna LeighAshton Nuss, the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Seminar at Troy University is a ‘coming home’ experience.

Nuss serves the organization as Alabama’s Leadership Seminar Chair, a volunteer position the fourth-grade teacher at New Market, AL Moore’s Mill Intermediate School sees as impactful on the state.

“HOBY is a worldwide leadership seminar for high school sophomores where they learn more about their personal leadership style and take that and learn to work in groups and in their communities back home and how to impact change around the world,” she said. “It’s a lot of teaching them how to think, not what to think.”

Alabama HOBY Leadership Seminar Chair LeighAshton Nuss, a TROY graduate, welcomes the newest crop of HOBY ambassadors to Troy University. (TROY photo/Joey Meredith)
Alabama HOBY Leadership Seminar Chair LeighAshton Nuss, a TROY graduate, welcomes the newest crop of HOBY ambassadors to Troy University. (TROY photo/Joey Meredith)

Nearly 250 rising high school juniors from 146 schools across Alabama are at TROY this weekend for the seminar, part of the international youth leadership program begun in 1958 by actor Hugh O’Brian, most famous for his ABC Television role of Wyatt Earp.

This weekend’s seminar hits the two-decade mark the seminar has been held at TROY, where more than 7,000 students have percolated through the program.

Nuss was one of those students her sophomore year in high school. 

“(HOBY) was the first time I came to TROY. The school offered a $1,000 scholarship for HOBY ambassadors and that led me to apply when it came time for college. They offered me some other really good scholarships and I came in 2013 and fell in love with,” she said. 

Her family joined her in TROY in 2015, when her father, Mobile native Todd Watson, joined the Troy Trojans football staff as Director of Operations and High School Relations from 2015-2017 before moving on to the University of Tennessee’s football program.

“They got to share TROY with me,” she said.

 When it came time for her sister to attend HOBY, Nuss said, even though she was in school in Tennessee, she recruited her to come to Alabama’s program.

“It’s special here. It’s a special place for me – both the school and the program, and I wanted her to have that experience,” she said.

It’s the experience at Alabama’s program at TROY that impacted now Director of Alumni Relations Charles Gordon.

“(HOBY) changed my life in so many ways,” he said. “I wasn’t supposed to come to HOBY. I was the alternate from my school, but I’m a firm believer it was the Lord that (knew) I needed to be here. I got here and it changed my life. It showed me I had so much potential for growth and had so many opportunities to see change in my world.”

Now the coordinator for service programming at Auburn University, Gordon is in his ninth year on the HOBY team – he’s come up through the program from ambassador to high-school alumni staff to group facilitator to his current role.

“My job is to continue the HOBY story once you leave the seminar and finding ways to promote servant leadership and service change in their own communities,” Gordon said. “I spearhead the Leadership for Service (L4S) Challenge where we challenge our ambassadors to complete 100 hours of community service in their own communities. We strive to allow them to find a social change issue or a special topic that interests them.”

“Ultimately, we are showing them that servant leadership and change comes from passion,” he said.

Troy University continues to offer a $1,000 scholarship for any HOBY ambassador who chooses TROY as his or her college of choice, in addition to any other scholarship offers for which they qualify.

HOBY alumni staff lead ambassadors in a cheer doing the opening session at Troy University. (TROY photo/Joey Meredith)
HOBY alumni staff lead ambassadors in a cheer doing the opening session at Troy University. (TROY photo/Joey Meredith)

Schools sending ambassadors this year include:

Abbeville Christian Academy
Alabama Christian Academy
Albertville High School
Alma Bryant High School
American Christian Academy
Andalusia High School
Ardmore High School
Ariton High School
Ashford High School
Athens High School
Autauga Academy
Baker High School
Bessemer Academy
Beulah High School
Briarwood Christian High School
Cedar Bluff High School
Central High School
Charles Henderson High School
Cherokee High School
Chilton County High School
Clarke County High School
Clarke Preparatory School
Cleburne County High School
Conecuh Springs Christian School
Corner High School
Covenant Christian School
Crenshaw Christian Academy
Curry High School
Daphne High School
Decatur Heritage Christian Academy
Dothan High School
Elberta High School
Elkmont High School
Enterprise High School
Eufaula High School
Excel High School
Faith Christian High School
Florala High School
Foley High School
Fort Dale Academy
Fruitdale High School
Gaston High School
Geneva County High School
Geneva High School
Geneva High School
Glenwood School
Greenville High School
Gulf Shores High School
Haleyville High School
Hanceville High School
Hartselle High School
Headland High School
Hewitt-Trussville High School
Highland Home School
Hokes Bluff High School
Holy Spirit High School
Homewood High School
Hooper Academy
Hoover High School
Houston Academy
Houston County High School
Hubbertville High School
Huntsville High School
J.U. Blacksher High School
Jackson Academy
Jasper High School
John T. Morgan Academy
Kinston High School
Lakeview Christian School
LAMP Magnet High School
Lauderdale County High School
Leroy High School
Lexington High School
Limestone County Career Technical Center
Lowndes Academy
Macon-East Academy
Madison Academy
Maplesville High School
Mars Hill Bible School
Mary G. Montgomery High School
McGill-Toolen Catholic High School
McIntosh High School
McKenzie High School
Meek High School
Millry High School
Mobile Christian School
Monroe Academy
Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School
Muscle Shoals High School
New Century Technology High School
New Life Christian Academy
North Sand Mountain High School
Northside High School
Oak Mountain High School
Oakman High School
Opelika High School
Opp High School
Oxford High School
Park Crossing High School
Patrician Academy
Pelham High School
Pickens Academy
Pike Liberal Arts School
Pisgah High School
Randolph School
Red Level School
Reeltown High School
Rehobeth High School
Ridgecrest Christian School
Robertsdale High School
Rogers High School
Saraland High School
Sardis High School
Slocomb High School
Smiths Station High School
South Choctaw Academy
Southside High School
Sparta Academy
Spring Garden School
Springwood School
St. John Paul II Catholic High School
St. Luke’s Episcopal School
St. Paul’s Episcopal
Straughn High School
Sulligent Consul School
Sweet Water High School
Sylvania High School
T.R. Miller High School
The Alabama School of Math & Science
The Lakeside School
The Montgomery Academy
Thompson High School
Thorsby High School
Trinity Presbyterian School
Tuscaloosa Academy
Valley High School
Verbena High School
Vestavia Hills High School
W.S. Neal High School
Washington County High School
Whitesburg Christian Academy
Wilcox Academy
Wilson High School
Winfield City High School
FacebookTwitterPinterestLinkedIn