HOBY shines light on leadership

DCS juniors Lorel Johnson and Abigael O’Donnell joined with classmates in writing essays about leadership as a bid to attend the 2019 Hugh O’Brien Youth (HOBY) Leadership Conference.

Lorel’s essay was chosen by a panel of judges, granting her admission to the conference, which was sponsored by the Leo Club. Abigael’s essay received second place, but she was undaunted in her desire to attend  HOBY – Abigael paid her own way to participate with Lorel in the event.

From May 31 through June 2, Lorel and Abigael joined with high school students from across the state at SUNY Oneonta to learn about themselves, understand others and build their leadership skills.

“Being an older sister to my five younger siblings has developed me into the leader I never thought I could become,” Lorel wrote in her essay, which she said gave her “an opportunity to reflect on my leadership experiences and how I hope to improve my skill sets.”

At HOBY, she found her fellow conference participants to be “very nonjudgmental and open to everyone who was there. We explored natural biases, learned about privilege and dealing with life challenges, and we focused on accepting other people. We  learned to be open to more opportunities and find happiness in life as an end goal.”

What else did Lorel takeaway from the HOBY conference? “I felt very lucky to have what we have.”

Abigael wrote in her essay about what she’s learned about leadership as a volunteer swim coach for children at the Y. “It is essential that you take the time to get to know who you are working with,” she wrote. “You have to make their success important to you, or it will diminish the way they feel about their own achievements.”

At HOBY, Abigael enjoyed the speakers, topics and “lots of enthusiastic people. There was a lot of cheering, you meet people from neighboring areas and make new friends.”

What did she bring home from the conference she felt so strongly about attending? “We learned about ourselves and about different leadership styles and how to implement them,” she said. “We [were taught] don’t be afraid to reach out or lead by example.”

Lorel and Abigael:  A quick profile

Activities & clubs

  • Lorel: Softball and volleyball, Leo Club
  • Abigael: Swimming with DCS and the Duanesburg Eels, DCS track, Leo Club, Mock Trial and Student Council


  • Lorel: Babysitting
  • Abigael: Lifeguard at the Y

Career goals

  • Lorel: Nursing
  • Abigael: Engineering