Each year, sophomores from all across West Virginia are selected to participate in HOBY – the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership camp. This year Noah Barkley, of Boyer, and Kyle Cohenour, of Frank, will represent Pocahontas County High School.
The camp is a four-day leadership conference held at the University of Charleston. Students will attend seminars, panels with area business owners and work on their leadership skills for the future.
Both Barkley and Cohenour were interested in taking leadership roles in school and in their communities and realized they would benefit from the camp in several ways.
Barkley said he asked science teacher Chloe Bland if she went to HOBY and she told him it would be a great experience for him.
“She said ‘you should definitely do it,’” Barkley said. “It can help us with our leadership skills, as well as just meeting friends that we might have in college and in the future.”
Cohenour said he hopes the camp will help teachers realize he is ready to take a leadership role with fellow students.
“I just kind of wanted to do it to get experience and mostly just to be able to get my name out there, and show that I’m interested in being a leader – not just in the school but in the community, as well,” he said.
Both young men are familiar with being leaders at school as they are officers in FFA. Barkley is vice president and Cohenour is recorder.
Being involved with FFA has helped them face issues head-on and has given them an opportunity to share their expertise with others.
“It really started with me in the seventh grade when I started getting to know what FFA was and the main part to me, about being really strong in FFA, was going to the State Fair and not seeing very many people showing their animals,” Barkley said. “I said ‘I want to get out there and have people see the blue jacket in the show arena.’ I want people to recognize that FFA is going to get more involved than what we have been in previous years. We’re showing that by doing more competitions and getting our name out there more than we were.”
Cohenour added that FFA is more involved in the community as well by having fundraisers and helping other organizations at the school succeed.
The two young men aren’t the only PCHS students attending HOBY this year. Senior Carlie Ervine, of Marlinton, is returning as a junior facilitator.
In her sophomore year, Ervine was an ambassador, like Barkley and Cohenour will be, and her junior year, she was on the operation staff.
Ervine said she continues to participate in HOBY for one simple reason.
“HOBY changed my life,” she said. “I’ve always kind of been a social person, but whenever I went there, I cried the first night because I didn’t want to be there. I was like, ‘this is just terrible. I want to go home,’ but within the four days that we were there, I became so close to my group and I made so many new friends that I felt like we were family.”
Ervine was so inspired by her time at HOBY that she organized the Lead On group at PCHS last year. The group encourages students to take on leadership roles in the school to assist students who were struggling.
While that first night at HOBY was shaky, Ervine said she was so glad she stuck it out and stayed the course.
“I just feel like, even though I was already out of my shell, I feel like I just completely threw my shell away,” she said. “I don’t meet a stranger anymore. I just feel really comfortable with everybody. It really opened me up the rest of the way.”
As a junior facilitator, Ervine will have a group of sophomores that she will assist during the camp and help them get the most out of the seminars and panels they attend.
“We facilitate, so we don’t give them our opinion, but we kind of push them along so that they get into a conversation about what their opinions are,” she said.
With HOBY, Ervine explained that participants can stick with the program and go from ambassador to operation staff to junior facilitator to senior facilitator and then they can join the board and organize the camp and other events for future participants.
“You can stay in HOBY until you’re on your deathbed,” she said, laughing. “You can just keep going. You can get on the board for HOBY and have your own duties. [PCHS alum] Emily Boothe, she organizes. There’s a seminar which is the four-day seminar and then you have three other small events reunions and she sets those up now. So you can get on the board and have a job you have to do.”
Ervine said that at first, HOBY may seem a little out there, but students shouldn’t be afraid.
“They’re all really nervous and afraid like I was,” she said. “When you show up, people attack and give them hugs, so you just completely break the zone and break the ice. I tell people, ‘we cheer. We’re really happy and we give a lot of hugs.’ You just have to experience new things. You have to go for it, jump in. It’s definitely something that people need to experience.”
For more information on HOBY, visit www.hoby.org