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Gaining leadership skills
July 1, 2013
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DC junior attends HOBY leadership conference

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

DASSEL-COKATO, MN – Matthew Johnson, a junior at Dassel-Cokato High School, was selected to participate in a leadership development conference, from which he has returned ready to make a great impact on his school, family, and community.

Johnson attended the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) conference June 7-9 at Bethel University along with more than 100 other students across the state.

HOBY was founded in 1958, with a mission to “inspire and develop our global community of youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service and innovation.” HOBY programs are conducted annually throughout the US, serving local and international high school students.

HOBY’s overall vision is to “motivate and empower individuals to make a positive difference within our global society through understanding and action based on effective and compassionate leadership,” according to its website.

This is the first year Dassel-Cokato High School has sent a student to participate in HOBY.

DC School Board Member Richard Tormanen encouraged the board to financially support this program after being a witness to the program when his granddaughter, a student at Delano High School, was selected to attend last year.

Johnson was selected by his teachers and administration, and when he was offered the opportunity by Ryan Tool, school counselor, he decided to give it a chance.

The three-day event included various activities and speakers, all centered around developing the characteristics of a positive leader.

It was also about learning the natural skills one already has that a person can use to make themselves a better leader, Johnson explained.

For example, Johnson said he found out that sometimes he can be a pit pushy when he is in a leadership position. This is something he will continue to work on by taking into account other people’s opinions and suggestions when working in a team.

The experience also allowed him to break out of his comfort zone and meet a lot of new people he wouldn’t associate with outside of this program.

From athletes to bookworms, “we all came together,” he commented, adding that he found all of the people he met were just like him when it comes to personality.

As part of the program, Johnson worked in small groups on certain development activities and to reflect on the speakers.

Some of the topics included embracing awkwardness, in which attendees had to introduce themselves to others; goal-setting strategies in school, career, and family; and determining the category of leadership one falls in.

Johnson said the most powerful program was on bullying and sexual violence and “tearing down the wall” of prejudices.

As a natural-born athlete, Johnson also appreciated the HOBY Olympic games, in which members would work in groups on different challenges.

Also, as part of the communication activity, team members were blindfolded and had to take instructions from another member to complete a task.

This taught the importance of listening, working cohesively, and the ability to follow instructions, Johnson explained.

From this experience, Johnson said he sees himself in a different form, adding there are things he needs to work on and those that he does well that he can excel at more.

Something he needs to work on, he said, is taking others’ opinions into consideration and keeping an open mind to other ideas.

His strengths would be his communication skills and his ability to sit and talk with anyone.

Johnson said he really enjoyed attending this program because he has met so many people in just three days. “You feel like a family,” he commented.

Also, he suggests other students be open to this program if they have the opportunity.

“It furthers your leadership qualities and . . . you take away skills that you can use for the rest of your life,” he said.

For more information on HOBY, visit www.hobyminnesota.org.

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