Five Vermillion high school students had a chance this month to learn how they can make a difference in their community through leadership and public service.
From June 9-12 the students attended 2011 Hugh OBrian Youth Leadership South Dakota (HOBY), which aims to impress on them the significant impact they can make through volunteering, among other things.
The event took place on the campus of Dakota State University in Madison.
It basically teaches them how to be a leader, how to think for themselves and it challenges them at the end at the end of the seminar to complete 100 hours of service in their communities, said Sarah Szymonski, a 2009 HOBY alum who served as a junior facilitator this year.
The students who participate are between their sophomore and junior years, and are chosen by a panel made up of several community members based on an essay they write about leadership, and an interview.
Mackenzie Huber was chosen as Vermillions official HOBY ambassador, with William Card serving as an alternate. Brooke Schwasinger, Mark Helenurm and Sarah Hansen also attended.
(HOBY) basically just challenges them to be better people, and I think thats a really powerful message for sophomores to hear, just because theyre trying to figure out where they fit in in high school. I think its a really critical age that they chose for the ambassadors to be at, Szymonski said.
Schwasinger and Hansen each said they gained from the experience.
I feel like I got to know myself a little more, and met some other people from around the state that also have the same interests as I do, Schwasinger said.
It really made you want to help, Hansen added. Right after I left I really wanted to do things for my community.
Throughout the week the students listen to a variety of speakers and work in groups on a number of projects.
One project the students liked in particular was Alexs Lemonade Stand, which raises money for pediatric cancer research.
We went out into the community and gave out lemonade and took donations, Schwasinger said. That was one of my favorite parts (of the event).
Hansen added that the stand raised more than $1,000 in two hours.
Alexs Lemonade Stand may be one of the projects the Vermillion students undertake to complete their 100 hours of community service.
We were thinking that we could do an Alexs Lemonade Stand during D-Days and maybe have a couple stands along Main Street, and maybe have a float (to tell) people what Alexs Lemonade Stand is for, that its not-for-profit and its free-will donations.
That would help us get some hours for that. Hansen said.
Another project is the Vermillion City-Wide Clean-Up, which Szymonski directed last year.
Im going to help (the students) out a little bit this year, but Im kind of passing that project off to them, because I know theyll do a good job with it, she said. They want to pick that up, and theyre really excited about that.
Schwasinger and Hansen each said they intend to stay involved with HOBY in the future, and hope to go back next year as facilitators.
They say its a life-changing experience, and I think it really is, Hansen said.
Szymonski agreed, saying, It definitely changed my life. They just learn how to be leaders and stand out from the crowd. They dont get taught what to think, they get taught how to think. They really emphasize that throughout the seminar, to take their own ideas and make them work in their own communities.
Its a huge difference from the beginning of the week to the end. They really change a lot, and thats so cool to see, she said.
For more information, visit www.hobysd.org.