Seward Rotary Club learned about the range of service and leadership programs offered at Seward High at its January 28th program.
January Program Chair Ken Schmieding highlighted leadership programs at Seward High School on January 24, 2024.  Avery Rodocker and Esten Johnsen spoke on a variety of leadership opportunities at SHS and promoted the various avenues of service available. They presented an overview of the many organizational opportunities and then focused and promoted the Hugh O Brian Youth Leadership Program (HOBY) and the Sophomore Pilgrimage Program.
There are five service groups/organizations at Seward High:  Key Club, which involves Youth Service and sponsored by the Seward Kiwanis Club; the Family Community Career Leaders of America (FCCLA), which has a focus on Family Consumer Science; Skills USA which is under the umbrella of the service, technology and assorted vocational skill areas; and the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), which has a very real business/technology aspect as well.  The SHS FFA program, formerly Future Farmers of America, continues to have a major focus on agriculture and the various opportunities in that field.  All of the current service directed groups have a major element of Leadership and Character Development in their programs, with faculty sponsors working with each group.
While other leadership opportunities abound at SHS, such as the music, arts, drama, speech and sports programs, the service organizations also have specific leadership programs that have competitions to develop the leadership even more.  Many, if not most, of these contests happen at state level conferences and workshops, where students can also qualify for national leadership events too.
Both students spoke about the Hugh O Brian Youth Leadership program.  One student of each school is selected to represent the school at the annual state HOBY Conference, which will be held this summer at Northeast Community College in Norfolk.  Johnsen was the SHS student representative that attended last year and Audrey Rodocker was selected to represent SHS this year.
“HOBY programs are conducted annually throughout the United States, serving more than 10,000 local and international high school students.  HOBY programs allow students to participate in unique leadership training, service-learning and cultural experiences,” said Johnsen.   “The State Seminars are for High School Sophomores-hoping that they can then go back and make a difference in their schools.  It was started by actor Hugh O’Brian decades ago, with Seward High’s Jennifer Kruse, selected to be the first HOBY student from SHS.”
“Each school selects their student in a different way-some appoint a student, some have students write an essay, but Seward asks the student to make a written application and attend a personal interview with a panel of judges-selecting the winner,” noted Rodocker.  “It puts a face with the application and the selection committee can get to know the student a bit more than just a written application.”
The SHS HOBY program is underwritten by the School District’s High Ability Learner Program (HAL) and endorsed by the various national/international service groups in the community, including Seward Rotary.  These groups each have individuals from their groups who serve on the selection panel.
The students that do not get selected for the HOBY program are participants in the “Sophomore Pilgrimage” leadership seminar in the spring.  Last year Johnson was able to attend the “Sophomore Pilgrimage” Program as well as HOBY.  The group spends the day at the State Capitol in Lincoln and meet a variety of the elected officials during the event.  The Sophomore Pilgrimage Program is sponsored by the GFWC Nebraska Federation of Women’s Clubs and sponsored locally by the GFWC Seward Woman’s Club and the GFWC Seward Junior Women’s Club.
“We are blessed to have a large offering of leadership learning opportunities at Seward High and I know that the students are stronger and more confident for having participated in one of the wonderful SHS programs,” commented Johnsen.  “I am excited to be part of a variety of these leadership learning events this year and know that this summer’s HOBY will be outstanding.  It is all about personal growth and these leadership programs make that growth meaningful.  Thanks to all who make these leadership opportunities a reality!”