Tuesday, June 24, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Alex’s GoFundMe: www.gofundme.com/aeteb0
Sarah’s GoFundMe: www.gofundme.com/ahesx4
Local high school students Alexander Ray and Sarah Fly could be two of more than 400 students attending a prestigious leadership conference in Chicago later this summer. After recently completing a requisite state seminar, they’re eligible to secure a spot at the same program’s annual World Leadership Congress.
There’s just one problem: They can’t afford to go.
Airfare included, the cost of attending the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Chicago event likely will reach upwards of $2,000 each. The program fee alone is about $1,600.
Their families are unable to foot the bill. The organization doesn’t have scholarships available.
So Ray and Fly are asking the public for help. Ray attends Canyon Springs High School, where he is part of the leadership and law preparatory academy and the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. Fly studies art at Las Vegas Academy of the Arts and works at the Polaroid Fotobar.
They have until July 15 to collect the money they need to go to Chicago. To try to make that happen, they’ve launched campaigns on GoFundMe, a crowdfunding website. Ray and Fly also have been soliciting donations individually.
If Ray raises more money than he needs, he said he’ll donate any extra to Camp Kessem, a free summer camp for children affected by a parent’s cancer.
Ray and Fly each were one of two students from their respective schools selected to attend HOBY’s Nevada leadership seminar at UNLV the weekend of June 13, an experience they described as transformative. Over the course of a few days, they and fewer than 100 other Nevada students were introduced through panels and speakers to three of HOBY’s priorities: personal leadership, group leadership and leadership for society.
“The major point that they pushed on us was you have to learn how to follow in order to learn how to lead,” Ray said. “Through doing that, you can be a better leader yourself and better teach other people how to lead.”
As important as Ray found the Nevada seminar, he said the Chicago congress offers an unparalleled opportunity to learn and network with students from around the country and world.
Organized in 1958 by its namesake, film and television actor Hugh O’Brian, HOBY is based in Southern California but offers programs in every state. While state leadership seminars are its flagship programs, the World Leadership Congress is more international in scope. HOBY workshops, speakers and activities in Chicago will emphasize global leadership as well.
Such an experience also could give Ray and Fly a leg up in the college application process.
“Participation in HOBY does look really good on college applications, but our focus is more on giving kids the encouragement and empowering them to do something,” said Chenique Murphy, HOBY’s director of national programs for the region that includes Nevada. “I think that our society focuses on all of the negative things of this generation and doesn’t empower students to identify their potential. (The Chicago congress) gives them a sense of the world beyond themselves.”
Fly and Ray say they intend to apply to college but have their sights set on influencing their communities as well. Ray said he wants to own a business. Fly said she wants to start a humanitarian organization — something she said was influenced by HOBY.
“I feel like after going to this conference, I’m a lot more confident and sure of my passions, my interests and what I want to do in life,” Fly said. “They really stressed the importance of service, and that has a whole new meaning to my life now. I just want to dedicate my whole entire life to service. It has been that inspiring.”
Update: The deadline to donate to Ray and Fly’s GoFundMe campaigns has been extended from Friday to July 15.