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A weekend of inspiration

Steven Labine, left, and other hoby students fill bags of rice to help feed children through the Feed My Starving Children charity.

Last weekend, soon-to-be DLHS junior Steven Labine had a life-changing experience.

Labine, and 75 other outstanding sophomores from across Minnesota, set out Friday for the Hugh O'Brian Youth (HOBY) Leadership Seminar at St. Paul's Concordia University. By the time Sunday arrived, he didn't want to leave.

"The whole weekend was amazing," he said with a smile, one he claims hasn't left his face since he returned home.

HOBY's mission is to inspire students to lives of service by teaching them about current issues and helping them discover their leadership potential.

Incoming senior Ashley Morben attended HOBY last summer, found it life-changing, and suggested Labine attend.

"She took it upon herself to find someone to go this year," he said, adding that Morben returned as a junior staff member.

"I was kind of hesitant," Labine said, adding, "I didn't know a lot about it."

Thanks to the ease of YouTube, Labine quickly found testimonies from past HOBY attendees.

"Everyone was so enthusiastic about it," Labine said. "I wanted to get on board with that."

And so he did.

Arriving at Concordia, Labine found himself in a room with 75 strangers, an "awkward" experience. However, that didn't last long.

"They break everyone out of their shell," Labine said, adding, "By the time I got home I had eight new friend requests, all from HOBY."

Labine discovered that, despite differences, there was always something to bond over, as evidenced with his roommate. The two stayed up late each night chatting, despite 7 a.m. wakeup calls.

"The only bad thing about the weekend was the lack of sleep," Labine said with a laugh.

Their long days were filled with speakers, panels and activities.

First, they determined their individual leadership styles based on personal characteristics, split into groups by type, and were challenged to figure out how to work with their opposites, a tough task for Labine's shy group.

"Being with a bunch of introverts, no one wanted to speak out," Labine said. "So I said, 'I'll do it.'"

After successfully conquering their differences, the group joined together and learned about leadership's forms -- groups, communities and societies -- through speakers and panels.

"It wasn't telling you what to think, it was telling you how you could think," Labine said of the various viewpoints presented, echoing HOBY's goal. "You had to make your own decisions."

The seminar used that approach to address difficult topics, too. Prejudice was obvious in a game where groups were treated how women, African Americans, Hispanics and homosexuals stereotypically are, which affected the groups differently.

"Each one had to change a little bit to cope with how they were treated, which gave us insight about why people act the way they do," Labine said, adding he was told repeatedly to ask his husband for permission.

Armed with information about themselves and their communities, the group went out to bag food for Feed My Starving Children. After only an hour and a half, they bagged enough to feed 71 kids in Haiti, Zimbabwe and Nicaragua for an entire year.

"It's amazing. When you share that common goal where you want to make the world better, it's powerful what you can do," Labine said, adding, "And we didn't even leave Minnesota."

With inspiration to make an impact, each HOBY attendee pledges to do 100 hours of community service over the next year.

"I already do quite a bit," Labine said, citing singing at his church, helping out at the nursing home, and volunteering with various community events. But with school, sports, theater, student council duties and a job, will he have 100 hours to spare?

"Oh yeah. You find time," Labine said. "After a while it's not about the hours anymore. It's about 'I want to help.'"

Having attended several leadership seminars before, Labine found this one "way different."

"It gave you insight into yourself and how you can help. Even an extremely introverted person can go out and do wonders in the community."

I want to be able to look back on my life and think 'I'm happy with what I did; I want to do more.'"