By Peter Vankevich
Ocracoke School junior Matteus Gilbert has been selected to attend the World Leadership Conference in Chicago later this month. A week-long educational program under the auspices of Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), the conference will include face-to-face interactions with top leaders in business, government, medicine, education and philanthropy.
Gilbert, an honor roll student and starter on the varsity basketball team, was nominated by his teachers to attend a summer leadership program in June known as the NC East HOBY Leadership Seminar at NC State University’s campus in Raleigh.
Based on his participation there where he displayed solid leadership skills he was invited to represent the state in Chicago.
“This is the first time that an Ocracoke student has participated in this program” said Mary McKnight, the school’s guidance counselor. “It’s important for Ocracoke students to have off-island enriching experiences, and this is a fantastic one.”
Gilbert is excited and honored as the only student from Hyde County to attend the conference.
“I gained a lot of experience with the seminar in Raleigh, and now going on to the next level and meeting people from all over of the country and the world will be even better,” he said.
Alton Ballance, Center Fellow at the North Carolina Center for Advanced Training (NCCAT), thinks that this will be a very positive experience.
“For students his age to meet and talk to other students in the country and throughout the world can be highly beneficial. We have a great need for young leaders who will make a difference as another generation emerges. I think anytime a young person from our community is selected and honored for such a program we must recognize and applaud the initiative and commitment. “” he said.
While funding for Gilbert’s attendance was not available from the Hyde County School District, an aspect of the leadership training is fundraising, and Gilbert quickly raised donations to cover his costs from the community.
Among the contributors were the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association, $499; $400 from SmacNally’s Raw Bar and Grill, $200 from Ballance as well as from Justin and Joelle LeBlanc, and an anonymous island donor for $500.
Dedicated to “training and nurturing the young leaders of tomorrow,” HOBY’s mission is to provide lifelong leadership development opportunities that empower youth to achieve their highest potential. Actor Hugh O’Brian, most noted for playing Wyatt Earp on a long-running television series, founded the organization in 1958 after paying a visit to Dr. Albert Schweitzer in Central Africa.