Oak Knoll Senior, Junior attend HOBY Leadership Conference as Volunteer, Ambassador

Rising senior Liandra Taylor ’24 and junior Cora Laborde ’25 attended the annual Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Conference at Drew University this summer as alumni volunteer and ambassador, respectively.

Taylor, of Newark, returned to the conference because of how much she enjoyed last years’ experience as an ambassador. “What prompted me to return to this program as a junior staff member were the connections I made with people and the lessons in leadership I was taught as an ambassador,” she said. From that perspective, she saw the volunteers boost participants’ morale and wanted to return and do the same.

Referring to her experience attending as an ambassador, Laborde said, “I had the privilege of learning about personal leadership, group leadership, and service leadership from HOBY alums who have undertaken leadership positions in fields such as finance, social advocacy, or educational management. I also reflected on my personal strengths and how I might use them to guide a group of people toward a common goal.”

In addition to cheering on the ambassadors, Taylor helped take on a series of tasks to provide a safe environment, something that was especially easy as she already knew many of those participating, including Laborde. 

“Everyone with whom I attended the program was very committed. Alumni, like myself, who come back to assist in running the program and are under the age of 21 are called j-staff. When I was an ambassador, I watched the j-staff members bring the fun and liveliness into the program through their chants, cheers, and kind encouragement,” said Taylor.

While on the job this year as a junior staff member, Taylor learned dimensions of the role beyond simply creating an enjoyable atmosphere. Setting up meeting spaces, cleaning up after the end of long days, creating snack bags for participants, checking in on dorm rooms, setting up the HOBY merchandise store, and modeling the more mundane but responsible aspects of leadership enriched the experience for her.

One of the most refreshing things about HOBY was that everyone was willing to contribute an equal amount of work during group projects, activities, and discussions,” added Laborde. “The ambassadors were given activities and discussion topics in order to implement what we were learning. I learned that leadership has no singular method, as it can be executed in a multitude of ways. I also learned that you can be a leader at any age, in any stage of life. I am grateful for the opportunity to have met other motivated individuals and network with the rising leaders of our generation. I hope to use what I’ve learned at this conference to better serve the Oak Knoll community and successfully navigate the professional world in the future.”

“The days were long because I had a lot to do, but I enjoyed every part of it. Everything runs smoother when people work as a team with a common goal.” Taylor concluded.

Congratulations to these two exemplary young leaders!