Hiawatha junior Joseph Kunkel.

Annually, one student ending their sophomore year at Hiawatha High School is chosen to attend the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) summer conference after writing a short paragraph about a given topic. This past year, the prompt sophomores had to respond to in order to be considered was, “what is the most challenging and rewarding part about leadership?” Joseph Kunkel, now a junior at HHS, was ultimately selected to represent HHS for the honor/distinction. The following is a highlight from his response:

“Leadership is not just about telling people what to do, but also setting a good example in athletics, academics and life.” Kunkel is a captain for the football team, participates in basketball, tennis, the Vice- President of Future Business Leaders of America, and a member of FFA. Kunkel’s response was selected from among the applicants from HHS. Approximately 200 students across Kansas are selected to attend the conference each summer. Kunkel said he chose to apply for the opportunity after teachers encouraged him to.

According to the organization’s mission statement, HOBY seeks to “motivate and empower individuals to make a positive difference within our global society through understanding and action based on effective and compassionate leadership.” The four-day leadership conference takes place in Manhattan, KS, with over 70 similar conferences taking place nationwide.

During his time at the conference, Kunkel attended expert panels, a career luncheon, took part in a community service day and participated in the HOBY Olympics. Some of the topics included during the expert panels were education, media, religion and college options.

During the career luncheon, Kunkel said that he was interested in how many career choices there are out there.

Kunkel noted that the HOBY Olympics had to be his favorite part of the experience; the Olympics were a collection of team building exercises.

“I gained the confidence to become a better leader,” Kunkel said of his experience at the conference. HOBY challenges its participants to be willing to step outside the box and embrace the experience being offered to them. Kunkel said that he became bolder as he had to make new friends and perform various exercises to get out of his comfort zone.

Overall, Kunkel evaluated the conference as a positive learning experience.

“I gained a new perspective on leadership and how truly to impact an individual’s life positively. We had a presentation about the ‘Lost Kids’ at school — the kids who go ‘unnoticed’ and have little support from friends and how much it means to say something nice or even just to talk to them,” Kunkel said.

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