Monday, August 10, 2015

Join the 2016 Jstaff Team!

Want to be a part of the 2016 HOBY ILCS J-Staff?  Then you are in luck because the application is out now! 

Below are the expectations and requirements, review them and make sure to let us know if you have any questions.  When you are ready, click the '2016 Jr. Staff Application' tab or go HERE to fill out the application.  It is a few pages long, so make sure you fill out all the pages before you submit it.

Applications should be in by August 31, 2015.  Please contact our Leadership Seminar Chair, aka HOBY, Mama Hillary at or our Director of Staff Ashley LaGrow at if you have any questions!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Alum of the Month - Meet Angelica Niemann!

Hey HOBY!  Are you ready for April's "Alum of the Month"?  Of course you are because we are honoring the outstanding Angelica Niemann!  Angelica is a 2013 HOBY ILCS Alum from Quincy Notre Dame High School.  After graduating in May, Angelica will go on to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  Cool fact: Angelica has already made it onto the Illinettes Dance Team!

We'll now turn it over to Angelica! 
Just a few short years ago, I was nominated to attend the Hugh O' Brian Youth Leadership Conference. What I gained from this experience is something I will take with me for the rest of my life; courage. Many people often confuse courage with ability, however, these concepts are completely different. We all have the ability and potential to achieve greatness, but the few that actually take a chance have courage.
 I have always had a sincere passion for helping others and desire to make a positive difference. After HOBY, I remembered a goal I wrote down throughout the weekend: founding a Kindness Club at my high school. I approached my principal and got to work on my exciting project during the summer of 2013. I pondered at the question, "What if we all did one random act of kindness every day?" The Mayo Clinic has made a discovery that one simple act of kindness spreads, like a virus, affecting up to 25 people in one day! Think about how much power we have. We all have a choice in life- whether we want to be a positive or negative influence. I chose to be proactive by creating the Quincy Notre Dame Kindness Club at my high school. We currently are the largest club at my school. The QND Kindness Club devotes its school year to doing kind deeds each month. We carol at nursing homes, raise money for children's hospitals, collect food for the poor and visit veterans. I will never forget the moment I met a veteran named Marvin. He was known as the "difficult patient." Marvin was paralyzed from the neck down and he hated visitors. When I came to visit his room, we sat and talked for hours! When I left, I heard him whisper under his breath "thank you." I quickly corrected him, for it was I who was thankful. He fought for our country, the ultimate sacrifice.
The QND Kindness Club was also inspired by Zach Sobiech, a 17 year-old boy who died from bone cancer. Since then, we have partnered up with our local Early Childhood Development Center where we mentor special needs children twice a month. The interactions with high school students has prompted significant improvements with the children's social and verbal skills. One child we work with actually said his first word during our visit! Recently, we celebrated "Kindness Club Week." This year's theme was "Thanking Our Heroes." Throughout the week, we had a soldier care package drive, baked cupcakes and wrote letters to firefighters, policemen, and EMT's as well as performed many other acts of kindness. We also will be published in the September/October edition of Women's Day magazine to highlight our club and inspire other readers around the world.
So was it luck you may ask or destiny that I attended HOBY? Because of that one incredible experience, I had an idea that eventually evolved into my passion. Kindness is the gift that keeps on giving. I believe it is important to remember that  every journey starts with the decision to begin. I hope that I can continue to encourage others to take chances like I did. We all have the potential to make such a positive difference.  
My future plans include continuing the QND Kindness Club and founding a collegiate level organization at my college, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Someday, I hope the Kindness Club will be imbedded into every high school and university in the United States. Every student has the potential to make a positive impact with their actions. "Kindness is one of the greatest gifts you can bestow upon another. If someone is in need, lend them a helping hand. Do not wait for a thank you. True kindness lies within the act of giving without the expectation of something in return.”

-Angelica Niemann

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Alum of the Month - Meet Jensen Roll!

Hey HOBY!  Are you ready for March's "Alum of the Month"?  I sure 'hope' you said yes to your screen, because this month we are celebrating the outstanding Jensen Roll!  Jensen is a 2010 HOBY ILCS alum from Normal Community High School.  Currently a Junior at Elon University in North Carolina studying Social Entrepreneurship, Jensen is the Co-President of a non-profit called H.O.P.E.

We'll now turn it over to Jensen! 
In Alamance County, the county of Elon University, Allied Churches, the local food kitchen, loses over $10k a month. When I heard this number I knew something needed to change, so I came up with an idea of how to bring in sustainable financial security to nonprofits like Allied Churches. This idea is H.O.P.E. which stands for Helping Other People Eat.

H.O.P.E. is a very simple concept that fills two needs within communities. The first need it fills is the sustained financial support for nonprofits struggling to feed the hungry and the second is to build awareness in the community of issues of hunger and food insecurity. H.O.P.E. does this through a certification system with restaurants. When customers eat at a H.O.P.E. certified restaurant they can opt into having a portion of their check donated to the local food kitchen in their community. H.O.P.E. provides these restaurants with strong advertisement and marketing to bring in more customers and raise more money for places like Allied Churches.

I started H.O.P.E after spending a large amount of time serving in food kitchens, food pantries, and other nonprofits that help people eat. In this time I found two things that were lacking. The first was volunteers with the skills needed to provide everything necessary for the nonprofit to excel and the second and more restrictive was money. 

Learn more by visiting or one of the social media links below

Friday, February 13, 2015

Alum of the Month - Meet Heather Duzan!

Hey HOBY!  We are thrilled to kick-off our new "Alum of the Month" blog series with one very special alum.  The outstanding Heather Duzan is a 2013 HOBY ILCS alum from Robinson High School.  Last year, Heather was a stand-out member of our seminar Jr. Staff and was rewarded by the HOBY Illinois Corporate Board with an scholarship to the HOBY Advanced Leadership Academy(ALA).

We'll now turn it over to Heather with an exclusive post that she wrote just for you!
I succeeded in getting my community schools to make valentines for me to deliver to local assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and the hospital. To understand why I did this project, I think you should know a little about me. I've never been afraid of death, I've always been afraid of vulnerability. I avoided hospitals even if I’m there to visit someone who would really enjoy seeing me. I feel bad about that afterwards. If my HOBY career has taught me one thing, its to change what I do not like and make it better. I decided that being old wasn't an illness, it wasn't a reason to lock someone away to keep us from seeing an ever constant reminder of impending mortality and the fragility of life, it was a reason to celebrate. I sat down one day and decided that since I had made cards to people in a homeless shelter in Springfield, IL and just mailed them off that I should make some cards to pass out myself. I decided that Valentines were the best option because who doesn't like a Valentine? I had such a drive I thought I could make enough Valentines for everyone in the assisted living facilities and nursing homes and the hospital—no small feat. I failed at making enough valentines for that many people. I was doing them by myself and everything started to pile up. I had made quite a few and decided I would go straight to my fear—the hospital. On February 14, 2014, I wrangled my friend Jake into coming with me. I needed someone to hold me accountable even if I wasn't telling him that it was the reason I was taking him. We walked in and I wanted to walk right back out. I could hear the beeping of the monitors and the respirators, the hiss of oxygen and the quiet honestly creeped me out. I looked at Jake and then realized that these were living, breathing people, they hadn't done anything wrong being here, they just needed help. I took a deep breath and walked up to the Nurses’ station. I smiled and asked if it was okay to hand out my valentines. The nurse agreed and smiled back at me. I didn't think they would turn me down but it was nice to know I was welcome.
  The first few people I tried to hand out valentines to, didn't understand. One woman grabbed my arm and told me she needed her medication. Jake and I looked at each other, neither of us knew how to field the situation. I wasn't just going to rip my arm away from her so I tried to get her to take a valentine. She calmed down but didn't take one. We moved on to the next person. This man didn't respond to me when I talked to him. I just sat a valentine on the tray of his wheelchair and tried to not let it get to me. Third time is a charm. I walked into a woman’s room and gave her a valentine. She fawned over it, saying how pretty it was and how much did it cost. I told her I had made them and I was giving them out. She thanked me a few times and just looked at the card like it was something very precious. That’s when it really hit me. I really was making a change. I kept passing out valentines and then I decided that we had enough to go around the rest of the Hospital that is open to visitors and passed them out. I left some on tables and handed some to parents. I was hooked.
     Last fall at ALA, I planned out my project start to finish pretty easily. Everyone else seemed to have much grander projects and I started to doubt myself. Until everyone I told my project to, looked my dead in the eyes and said, “That’s an amazing and touching project. It really hits home with a lot of people.” I wasn't the best at pitching my idea and planning out every minuscule task and supply was tedious since apparently putting, “Gather assorted craft supplies” is not a concise enough answer when people ask you what you need. I got rather frustrated when my group kept talking when I was trying to show them my plan and finally I just blatantly said I was doing this project to assure that when I leave this world I’ll not have the regret of helping the forgotten and to get rid of the stigma I had about elderly people. They stopped talking and looked at me. I wasn't really a big share-er in group time. I left ALA with a plan and a promise to follow through on my project. When I got home, though, my will was shaken and I was tested.
   I had spent many days leading up to ALA in a hospital with a very close friend of the family on heavy life support. I had been avoiding sitting in the dark room listening to the respirator keep him alive and the monitor saying his heart was beating but not saying when he would be back to normal. The day I came back from ALA, I was about to give blood for the first time and right before I had to go into the little cubby to fill out paperwork, my dad found me and waved my over, he was upset. He told me that the family was going to take the friend off of life support. I knew I needed to be a pillar for the other members. So I went to the hospital, again, and spent the afternoon and evening talking to the friend’s sister and then I held her hand when she started to cry after they said he had gone peacefully. I don’t say this to make you sad, I say this because I was angry. I was angry that he had to be on life support for so long, angry that none of the nurses or the doctors or any of the staff really acted like it mattered. I was angry that he was just another number, another checkmark on a chart. I decided that no one should feel that way. I went home and had my inner fire for service relit with gasoline.
    I talked to my school superintendent who told me he would help me anyway he could. I wrote a stellar email for him to send out to the entire faculty of the district and I waited. I made some valentines to help things along but then I started getting the emails. Teachers from all the schools in my district were on board with making some valentines. I replied with gratitude and almost cried because people were telling me how awesome it was for me to be doing this project and how they had seen how horrible and isolating nursing homes could be. In January, my school had a new semester celebration with various activities and they put on a valentine making shop without me even asking. I did get some inappropriate valentines that said “Keep on Kickin’” or “Smile while you can” and “Smile why you still have teeth! <3” While some people thought those were hilarious, I knew that those would end up going to someone who didn't think they were too funny so I took them out.

  On February 12, 2015, after a last minute switch from passing them out on the 13th, I crammed four other kids into my car and filled my trunk with backpacks and paper boxes full of the valentines. We went to the Hospital first and had similar luck to my first time there. I gave the group a crash course on etiquette. “Smile, introduce yourself, offer a valentine, some might want one, some might not, talk to them if they want to talk to you, we have time.  If they don’t want one, smile, wish them a Happy Valentine’s Day, and move on.” They were all mature enough to be polite and caring. I had the dream team. I told them to split up so we wouldn't all crowd the hallways and rooms. There was one woman who was cradling a baby doll and kept asking us where dinner would be served at. We kept giving her an answer but the nurse ignored the woman and I and the others exchanged glances. None of us were versed in the care of the elderly but we knew that ignoring someone isn't the right thing to do. She lit up when we gave he a valentine.
 The next two stops were much more up tempo. They were assisted living facilities. The nurses were courteous and the residents were spunky. We walked through the halls and put a few valentines in every mailbox at the first stop. The second assisted living facility we knocked on doors and struck up conversations with the residents who were chatty. The group even found a resident who made elaborate doll houses and sail boats out of cardboard (we ended up giving up a lid to our box and then an empty box to him because it was so amazing what he was doing with them and we didn't need it anymore). I was feeling good, the residents and the caregivers were all smiling and telling us how amazing it was to see such a fine group of young people doing so much good. My heart swelled as I watched my friends grow as they did this project. I was proud of them.
    The last stop we made was at the only real nursing home in my hometown. I was apprehensive because I had heard that it was lacking in the care it gave to the people who lived there. For the first time that afternoon, I didn't want to do this project. I didn't want to go back and see the people who couldn't do what they used to do without help. It made me sad and scared that it someday was going to be me in that situation. I looked around the car and my friends knew something was wrong with me. I voiced my concerns about going in and they told me that if we went anywhere, we should go here because they needed it the most. I swallowed my fear, put on a big smile and walked into the Nursing Home. We passed out valentines to most of the residents at dinner. That wasn't bad. Although, I did get held up by one woman who looked through my entire box of valentines before deciding that she didn't want one, that was a little frustrating and my natural instinct would be to say something bitingly sarcastic but I took a breath and realized, I wasn't doing this alone, my friends were in the other parts of the dining hall passing out valentines so it wasn't a big deal that this woman was taking so much time. We walked through the halls and gave valentines to the people who couldn't get out of bed to go to dinner. I was more comfortable now with this place and it was good to see how many people appreciated the valentines even though some of them were hardly legible because they were from kindergartners.
      After I dropped my friends off at where they needed to be, I took a deep breath. I was done. With this year’s valentines at least. I thought about all the lives my friends and I brightened today and it lifted my heart. I thought about all the good times we had today, with each other and talking to the residents. I didn't do this project to get famous. I didn't go around telling anyone who would listen that I was the one doing the valentine project and I was the best and I was kindest and I was the most selfless person alive because I didn't see it that way. It was a way for me to immerse myself in something I wasn't comfortable and touch people’s lives while bettering mine. I didn't even tell the people that I was the one who initiated the project. My friends brought that up when people asked. I didn't call the paper to come get a picture of us, I didn't even get a picture with all of us in it. I just got a picture of us when we walked into the Hospital on our first visit of the day. I guess I’m not completely comfortable in a hospital or a nursing home but I know that this project is not stopping just because I’m going to college in the fall. I plan on bringing a little more love to everyone’s life and showing that service doesn't always mean doing something flashy with a lot of prestige and glamour. It can be as simple and giving someone a homemade card.
                ~Heather Duzan