By Peter Vankevich
For Deanna Seitz and Matteus Gilbert, the summer of 2015 will be one they will long remember. The two honor roll students attended prestigious academic and leadership programs.
Deanna, a senior, attended the Governor’s School of North Carolina at Salem College, Salem. Matteus attended both the NC East HOBY Leadership Seminar at NC State University’s campus in Raleigh and the World Leadership Congress at Loyola University, Chicago.
They are the only Hyde County students to attend these programs this year, and Matteus, a junior, was the first ever student from Hyde County to go to the World Leadership Congress.
“It’s important for Ocracoke students to have off-island enriching experiences, and these are fantastic ones,” said Mary McKnight, the school’s guidance counselor who assisted in their participation.
Deanna concentrated in English, philosophy and psychology. One of her highlights was hearing Darryl Hunt, an African-American from Winston-Salem, who, in 1984 at age 19, was wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of Deborah Sykes. He served 19-and-one-half years in prison before he was later exonerated by DNA and other forms of evidence. He is now involved in the Innocence Project.
Another highlight was her first psychology class. “We went in with blindfolds and were asked questions, such as what is your religion and what type of family did you grow up in,” she said.
“We couldn’t see each other and were making assumptions. After we took off the blindfolds and saw each other, it helped us to get to know each other better.”
Begun in 1963 by Gov. Terry Sanford, this is the oldest summer residential program for academically and intellectually gifted high school students in the nation.
For Matteus, he said this summer was a positive life-changer. First, he attended the NC East HOBY Leadership Seminar in June at NC State University, Raleigh. Based on his participation in the program’s Leadership for Service project, where he coordinated a clean-up of a city park and a distribution of meals to the homeless, he was invited to represent the state at the conference in Chicago.
HOBY, or the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership program, was founded in 1958 by actor Hugh O’Brian, most noted for playing Wyatt Earp on the long-running television series. Matteus was among 450 other students, 40 percent of them coming from 10 other countries.
One project included everyone cleaning up Humboldt Park. Their efforts made the local news, and it is considered to be the largest ever youth service community project in Chicago, saving the city approximately $150,000. He interacted with top leaders in business, government, medicine, education and philanthropy.
“One speaker quit his job, and in four years traveled to 80 countries, which was pretty impressive,” Matteus said.
In the evenings, students talked about their countries, and Matteus spoke on behalf of the United States and about Brazil where his family has roots. The young ambassadors were encouraged to get active and make an impact on people’s lives.
“This school year, I want to dedicate a lot of time to the youth sports program and the island litter sweep project,” Matteus said.