At PRA, we are fortunate to get a day of reflection each year to reflect on our careers, futures, and the path we would like to establish for ourselves. The great thing is, PRA encourages us to be as creative as we can with our days of reflection; some of us get massages, some go hiking, and some walk on the beach. While all of those are wonderful, and I would love to get the knots in my back worked out, I already had my calendar marked for my day of reflection before I even started working at PRA. I was going to spend my time volunteering with the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Seminar (HOBY).

What is HOBY? It is a weekend-long seminar for high school sophomores who exhibit leadership potential. During the weekend, the students are given the tools to become effective leaders in their schools and communities through panel sessions, a volunteer project, and skill building activities. I attended the program when I was a sophomore and have been back as a volunteer ever since. I was so inspired by all of the incredible students I was surrounded by and felt like even though I was 16, I could do anything.  Over the years I have grown my role from junior facilitator to director of staff, head of the volunteer project, and assistant program director. I am now part of the five person planning committee that works throughout the year to put on a seminar that will hopefully change the lives of 150 sophomores.  No pressure!

Each seminar I get less than 10 hours of sleep (for the whole seminar), lose my voice, and eat approximately three big bags of candy to try to keep up my energy to direct the staff, the program, and the students. It’s not the healthiest weekend, and each year I tell myself that it will be my last. Each year I come back. Why? Because seeing 150 strangers that don’t know each other transform into a supportive unit of inspired leaders always makes it worthwhile. At our seminar this year, I asked the students what they wanted to do when they returned home from HOBY. I received an incredible mix of answers, such as spending time with an autistic classmate, volunteering at an animal shelter, starting a duct tape wallet business, and raising funds for a nonprofit that works with victims of domestic violence. How can you not be inspired with answers like these?

These answers are why I volunteer for HOBY – seeing the students’ transformation and hearing the excited chatter about a world that they can make better makes me believe that I too can change the world. HOBY is my annual check up where I ask myself: “Am I being the person that I want to be? Am I following my dreams and my passions, both professionally and personally? Am I taking time to balance my work with my personal relationships?” I am grateful to have my day of reflection, and even more grateful that HOBY is where I can spend it.