Hoby Winning Essays

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Edited by Darryl Pinckney
610 pp. New York Review Books. Paper, $19.95.

Elizabeth Hardwick, who was born in 1916 and died in 2007 and published eight books in between, was a writer perturbed by biography. Those three statements, in fact — the birth, the death, and the books — would likely have struck her as sufficient biographical information. When it came to the ways in which writers were canonized, she was passionately exasperated by a myopic chronicling of a life, rather than an interrogation of the work. What mattered was how an individual life illuminated literature and vice versa, not the flotsam and facticity of someone’s days. The most prominent facts of her own life — her marriage to the poet Robert Lowell, her involvement with Partisan Review and then The New York Review of Books — are themselves fully enmeshed in literature: the arguing about it, writing about it, building love affairs around it. She was visibly and professionally a writer, but her higher vocation was “reader.” As Darryl Pinckney, a former “fascinated and silent” student of hers, notes in his introduction to her “New York Stories,” “she wrote to honor the fiction she cared about, which was why in fiction she was so easily discouraged.”

The fiction, particularly her third novel, “Sleepless Nights,” has a quality of supreme distillation, as do her short stories. This has nothing to do with them being short — their length is the only thing that could be said to be average about them. Instead, this quality of compression owes itself to a kind of humility — an odd word, perhaps, to use for a writer of grand ideals and ambitions, but the humility and the high ideals work together: She holds herself, unrelentingly, to the task of saying something important. As she puts it in her essay “Grub Street,” “Making a living is nothing, the great difficulty is making a point, making a difference — with words.”

Her distaste for the Gradgrindian plod of biography, then, is the counterpart to her love of literature. Literature does what life can’t and what boring biographers won’t: omit all the tedious bits that clot our days and signify nothing. In good fiction, every sentence and detail is necessary. The same is true of these impeccably economical essays, which, collected here with a wise introduction by Pinckney, offer a rich immersion in both her brilliant mind and the minds of so many others.

“The Decline of Book Reviewing” is an essay that’s often called “seminal,” which is not the same as “good,” at least by Hardwick’s own standards. Reading her in righteous and lambasting mode is certainly fun and invigorating, but this is also a fish-shooting sort of screed, taking easy aim at the failure of those responsible for the “sweet, bland commendations” that “fall everywhere upon the scene” — a scene in which “a book is born into a puddle of treacle; the brine of hostile criticism is only a memory.”

In 1963, four years after the essay was published, Hardwick and her treacle-allergic comrades founded The New York Review of Books, a proud vessel to plow through briny oceans. In “The Decline of Book Reviewing” she had written that “the interest of the mind of the individual reviewer is everything,” and those words could serve as the magazine’s credo. As these essays demonstrate, criticism should be commensurate with its subject. A piece on George Eliot, for example, begins in a way worthy of a first line by that novelist: “She was melancholy, headachy, with a slow, disciplined, hard-won, aching genius that bore down upon her with a wondrous and exhausting force, like a great love affair in middle age.” What follows is not, of course, a sweeping and gravid 19th-century novel about a woman seeking a life of meaning within a world of compromise, but something almost as good — a spry appraisal of a genius that is, in its own way, also a piece of writing about a woman seeking a life of meaning within a world of compromise. Eliot and Hardwick merit each other. The prickling irony of “The Decline of Book Reviewing” is that Hardwick’s subject, insipid writing, is not worthy of her. It’s a fool’s errand to try to make something truly good from something boringly bad.

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2018 Alumni Leadership for Service College Scholarships - Due July 31, 2018

HOBY will provide three (3) $1,000 college scholarships for the 2016 Alumni Class and three $1,000 college scholarships for the 2017 Alumni Class. To be eligible for consideration, the student applicant must:

  • Be a HOBY Alumnus/Alumna of a State Leadership Seminar in 2016 or in 2017
  • Complete a minimum of 250 hours of service (within one year’s time) that made a measurable impact on one community issue
  • Log project hours into the Leadership for Service online system by July 31, 2018
  • Uphold the core values of HOBY by displaying excellence, integrity, diversity, and innovative thinking
  • Be representative of an Outstanding HOBY Ambassador to others through their service and leadership
  • Show how they made a significant difference in the lives of others
  • Submit a letter of reference from an individual who can attest to the Alumnus’ volunteer impact and overall leadership
  • Have all their information verified
  • Complete the online scholarship application and submit all required materials by July 31, 2018.

Download the L4S Scholarship Application Worksheet to learn more about the application process.

Apply Now

Congratulations to the 2017 Alumni Leadership for Service College Scholarship Winners

Alexa Lemke, 2015 HOBY Arizona Alumna

After attending HOBY in 2015, Alexa was empowered to spread HOBY’s mission of leadership and service to as many people as possible. She has since used her refined leadership skills to develop and implement two HOBY Community Leadership Workshops for high school freshmen in her area, reaching over 150 youth. After attending HOBY’s Advanced Leadership Academy, Alexa also created a service project that focused on teaching elementary school students about preserving the environment. She has continued her passion for HOBY and service by volunteering at the HOBY United Kingdom Leadership Seminar and local HOBY Arizona seminars, empowering hundreds along the way.

Alexa said, “HOBY has been the light of my life since I attended my first HOBY Seminar in June 2015. A spark was ignited inside of me that I will always remember. HOBY gives you a home, and inspires you to empower yourself and others to serve and create positive change throughout your community.


Jennifer Bullockus, 2015 HOBY California-South Alumna

Having volunteered with the Mission Viejo Activities Committee (MVAC) since age eleven, by sixteen Jennifer was ready to take on more responsibility serving her community. However, she struggled with adults thinking she wasn’t ready to take on a leadership role because of her young age. Nevertheless Jennifer persisted, and by using her HOBY experience to gain confidence and encourage others to serve alongside her, she eventually started her own Relay for Life team to support the American Cancer Society. Jennifer’s team (which included another HOBY alumnus!) earned the Most Spirited Award, was ranked 5 of 46 for highest fundraising, and landed her a spot on the RFL Event Leadership Team. Jennifer balanced this commitment while serving as president of her Girl Scout troop and a youth leader and mentor for MVAC.

Jennifer said, “HOBY helped [me] create a social network of youth volunteers like me that volunteer for the love of giving back. I don’t have to wait until I am older to make a difference. HOBY taught me the value of individuals’ abilities and the responsibility of using your own talents to give back to the community. Through being a [volunteer] for HOBY I became more confident in my skills as a leader, so I know I can take on bigger issues facing the world today.


Paul Boyd, 2015 HOBY New Hampshire Alumnus

Volunteering alongside doctors and nurses in the Intensive Care Unit at Catholic Medical Center, Paul quickly learned that medicine is not only a career field but a way of life. As a Critical Care Assistant, Paul has expanded his role of stocking and organizing medical supplies in the ICU to providing emotional support to patients and their loved ones during their stay at the hospital and constantly finding ways to make overburdened nurses’ lives easier. He has demonstrated HOBY’s model of personal leadership by taking initiative to support medical professionals during emergency situations, sharing advice with underclassmen outside the hospital about college, and holding open doors for everyone in between.

Paul said, “HOBY has inspired me to use my leadership to help others, not [only] in a grandiose way, but through serving others in my day-to-day life… HOBY has also helped me to think critically about my [bigoted] beliefs… I have since worked hard to change these beliefs, as having them was affecting the way I could serve others. Utilizing HOBY’s model for social change, I have challenged others to re-asses their own beliefs by inviting them to participate in new experiences.


Cameron Gehlert, 2016 HOBY Missouri Alumnus

Thanks to Cameron’s recycling initiatives, he has helped prevent thousands of pounds of paper and cardboard from ending up in landfills by implementing a recycling program in his school and community. When Cameron noticed his school had no recycling options available, he decided to change that by purchasing paper collection bins to place around campus himself, eventually receiving attention and support from school administration. When he was gifted a vertical cardboard baler (to compact cardboard), he channeled his HOBY experience to reevaluate and expand the impact of his service. He began partnering with local businesses to help reduce their waste as well while maintaining partnerships and streamlining processes. Cameron has networked with state legislators and mentors at the Missouri Recycling Association to continue his education in recycling, and he introduced his school to an environmental club to continue recycling efforts after he graduates.

Cameron said, “HOBY opened my eyes to a clearer definition of what my volunteer service should be about: change, growth, commitment and continually re-evaluating those components. Prior to HOBY, I narrowly defined my activities and myself by community boundaries. HOBY helped me recognize my service did not have to be limited to my own backyard… The HOBY experience gave me a new mindset in looking at the world and my place in that world!"


Jackson Machesky, 2016 HOBY California-South Alumnus

When Jackson became the Student Board Representative for his school district, he was given the opportunity to organize a school district-wide philanthropy project. During his HOBY seminar, Jackson changed his perspective of leadership through service, realizing that leadership isn’t about micro-managing, but instead collaboration and inspiring others to take action. This new outlook allowed him to network during HOBY’s Mentor Mingle Lunch with a representative from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Jackson became aware of the dramatic effect a “wish” can have on a child’s life. This experience inspired him to organize a district-wide coin drive to raise money to grant wishes for children diagnosed with progressive, degenerative, or malignant medical conditions. By coordinating and overseeing this project in more than twenty schools, Jackson’s efforts helped raise over $20,000 to grant four wishes to Make-A-Wish children – the single largest donation by an underage individual since 2013.

Jackson said, “Before HOBY, I knew that I wanted to do something to benefit individuals less fortunate than myself, but I did not know where to channel my efforts. Attending the HOBY [Southern California] Leadership Seminar gave me the resources to actually put my thoughts into action… HOBY gave me the expertise and facilitated my passion to lead through service by teaching me about the importance of perspective and collaboration... it wasn’t until after HOBY that I fully realized that service isn’t about doing something the ‘right’ way - it’s about doing something to give back, and inspiring others to do the same."


Valerie Nguyen, 2016 HOBY Virginia Alumna

When her sister, Cecilia, passed away after battling childhood cancer, Valerie passionately channeled her energy into raising awareness and support for organizations that help fight this disease. What started with hat sales and holiday party fundraisers turned into the Festival to Fight Cancer – a one-day event that Valerie started from scratch, packed with races, food, carnival activities, and a showcase of local childhood cancer associations with which attendees could get involved. Valerie used an activity from HOBY about understanding different personal leadership styles to maximize the diversity and strengths of her volunteers, making her event an even greater success. She used bathroom breaks during school to make calls to sponsors, checked emails every spare moment she had, and skipped coffee trips with her friends to have meetings to coordinate the event. Along with awareness and support, Valerie’s efforts raised over $17,000 to fight childhood cancer in Cecilia’s honor.

Valerie said, “Before attending HOBY, I was confused as to what my true passion was in life… Because of [a quote a volunteer at HOBY told me], today my passion is devoted to childhood cancer awareness… HOBY played a vital role in putting together the Festival to Fight Cancer… Because I [learned my] leader[ship] style from HOBY, I was able to play my strengths of ‘people skills’ with the sponsors that I met [through the Festival to Fight Cancer] and I was able to effectively collaborate with diverse peers on [the event] club’s leadership team.


Scholarship Opportunities 

Florida State University

Florida State University is pleased to present the application for the Service Scholar Program for the 2012- 2013 academic year. The Service Scholar Program recognizes select incoming students with an outstanding record of community service and leadership, and who want to continue that commitment at FSU. The Program benefits include a scholarship valued at $2,400 per year for up to four years, exposure to a diverse group of individuals and social issues, an academic component, and support by an assigned faculty mentor.

Go to Florida State University

Los Angeles World Affairs Council

The Los Angeles World Affairs Council awards a $2,500 scholarship to a graduating high school student from a public, Los Angeles County high school who is embarking on a higher-learning degree with an international emphasis. The scholarship is renewable for up to five years.

Go to Los Angeles World Affairs Council


Marietta College - Ohio

All students accepted to Marietta College who are also HOBY Ambassadors will be invited to compete in the Marietta College Pioneer Scholarship competition. All HOBY Ambassadors will receive a baseline Dean's Scholarship valued at $10,000 and will have the opportunity to increase the value of the scholarship up to full tuition per year to attend Marietta College.

Go to Marietta College Ohio


Millersville University of Pennsylvania

A $1,000 scholarship is available for applicants who rank in top tenth of class, have minimum combined SAT I score of 1170, and provide documentation of being a Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Conference participant.

Go to Millersvile University of Pennsylvania


The Morehead-Cain

The Morehead-Cain is a unique, life-changing educational opportunity that begins with a four-year merit scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In addition to covering the full cost of attending UNC, it provides four summers of global travel and experiential learning, a Discovery Fund for educational opportunities during the academic year, personal mentoring by experienced staff advisors and accomplished Morehead-Cain Alumni, and a remarkable group of motivated Morehead-Cain Scholar peers.

Only students who attended the World Leadership Congress (WLC) are eligible to be nominated for the Morehead-Cain Scholarship. For more information, including selection criteria and the selection process timeline, please visit www.moreheadcain.org.


Mount St. Mary's University

All students accepted to Mount St. Mary’s University who are HOBY Ambassadors will receive a base Dean’s Scholarship valued at $18,000 (2015).

Go to Mount St. Mary's University


National Security Language Initiative for Youth

The National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, provides merit-based scholarships for eligible U.S. high school students to learn less commonly taught languages in summer and academic-year overseas immersion programs. Programs are available for Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Korean, Persian (Tajiki), Russian and Turkish. NSLI-Y immerses participants in the cultural life of the host country, giving them invaluable formal and informal language practice and sparking a lifetime interest in foreign languages and cultures.

Go to National Security Language Initiative for Youth


Robertson Scholars

The Robertson Scholars Program is a leadership development merit scholarship program at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The program brings together outstanding young individuals from around the world who demonstrate exceptional leadership, strength of character, high academic potential, generosity of spirit, and the energy necessary to accomplish great things. With unparalleled access to two renowned universities, a series of unique summer enrichment experiences, and individualized mentoring and coaching from a dedicated program staff, Robertson Scholars benefit from numerous opportunities that enable them to fully realize their leadership potential.

Go to The Roberston Scholars Program


Texas Christian University

The $1,000 Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Scholarship is available to full-time entering freshmen at Texas Christian University. You must have participated in the HOBY Leadership Program, and demonstrated a record of leadership and community service to be eligible for this award.

Go to Texas Christian University


Make the World Your Home with Youth For Understanding!

Do you want to make a difference in today's multicultural, interconnected world? HOBY has already identified you as a promising young leader, and Youth For Understanding (YFU) USA would like to offer you the opportunity to continue developing your skills and talents on a YFU international exchange program. YFU is pleased to announce a $500 tuition discount for any HOBY alum who applies and is selected for a YFU study abroad program leaving in 2018!  Visit the YFU website to see program options and details and begin your application today: www.yfuusa.org.  The application deadline is March 15, but apply early, as some programs fill up fast.

Want to learn more? 
To read YFU alumni blog posts Click Here
To listen to their stories and tips Click Here



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