I am Matthew Santos, and to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect about HOBY, the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership. Initially, I thought it would be another boring leadership seminar. But I was very wrong.

When I got to Wesley College in Dover, the HOBY staff greeted me in a way I hadn’t expected. They cheered, “You are outstanding, O-U-T-S-T-A-N-D-I-N-G!”  I remember thinking to myself, “Oh man . . . What did I get myself into?”  To wake us up on a cloudy Friday morning, the first thing we learned were cheers, specifically the Outstanding cheer that welcomed me.  I initially thought it was weird, but by the end of the seminar I was fully immersed in the cheering; everyone else was, too.  We had such great energy and passion.

At the Delaware seminar, I learned many things about leadership I had never considered. We learned about personal and group leadership. We incorporated our leadership into the hours spent doing community service in a local Dover park while also learning about the importance of communication.  We had great panelists such as Senator Chris Townsend and the founder of DMA that taught us how to incorporate leadership into own own lives.

Another amazing thing about the Delaware seminar was that I was able to connect and make friends with students all over the state.  It also gave me the chance to reconnect with several friends and students from Independence.  Just after spending a weekend with other HOBY sophomores, I had already decided it was the best summer ever.  I thought HOBY Delaware was amazing, but it turns out the HOBY World Leadership Congress, WLC, was even better.

HOBY WLC was held in Chicago in July. The theme was LiveHoby, with One Republic’s “I Lived” as our theme song. We did so many fun things. Of course, we did all the cheers in the Delaware seminar, but many more. The cheers were energizing.  All of us, around 450 students, went to the Museum of Science and Industry, toured Chicago, sang in the HOBY Choir, watched fireworks, and even had a dance party on the last night. I got the chance to meet hundreds of interesting people from all over the world, with life stories much more impressive than mine. Ambassadors represented the United States, Canada, China, France, Italy, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, and even my home country of the Philippines. It was so interesting to talk with everyone because each person had their own unique story to tell.

One of my favorite moments at WLC was the international presentations because I learned so much more about other countries. Many people also had breathtaking talents, which made the talent show phenomenal. Although I met hundreds of people, I became really close to 13 people, who were part of my B4 group. By the end of the seminar, we were all crying, knowing that we may not see each other again.  HOBY WLC had interesting, world-renowned speakers; they spoke with passion and charisma, something I would like to emulate in my own school presentations. They taught me about personal, group, and global leadership. So inspiring and driven, they encouraged me to go out and positively change the world.

Additionally, I loved all the service we did in Chicago. We went to Humboldt Park to clean up and beautify the park, saving thousands of dollars. As a result of the huge service project, I even got to be a part of CBS Chicago news! We packaged just under 53,568 lentil meals within a 45-minute span!  Overall, HOBY was an amazing, once in a lifetime experience I will never forget, and I am so grateful to have been chosen to be a part of it. It has inspired me to look beyond myself and help others, to tackle problems big and small.  Everyone at HOBY has encouraged me to LiveHoby, to help others who really need it and have also inspired me to spread HOBY, to inspire others who will make a positive difference in the world.