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Two rising juniors attend HOBY conference

Kenzie and Nate before the end of school

By: Morgan Sexton

Contributing Writer


    Rising WCHS juniors Mackenzie Crabtree and Nate Helton were selected to serve as ambassadors at this summer’s Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) Leadership conference. The two attended the conference from May 31 to June 3 at Transylvania University.


    Mackenzie is the current president of the 4-H horse club and plays tennis. She is also a member of the Beta Club and the FFA. Nate is in the Gifted and Talented Program and participates in the FCA. He is passionate about mission work. With resumes like that, it is no surprise that these two students were chosen to attend the conference.


It is uncommon for two WCHS students to participate in HOBY. Typically, the selecting high school covers one participant and a second applicant is chosen as an alternate. Mackenzie and Nate are grateful for the anonymous donor who made it possible for both of them to attend the conference.


    Both Nate and Mackenzie were excited about the opportunity to expand their leadership skills at the conference. According to Nate, the conference emphasized service over power.

“The main thing I learned is that leadership isn’t about the position you hold or your rank. It’s about doing good work in your community to influence others to do good too,” he said.


    During the conference, the ambassadors are divided into groups to complete a 4-hour community service project. Mackenzie’s group helped repurpose a former orphanage building into the new Central Music Academy. The Academy trains musically talented low-income students. Mackenzie’s HOBY group helped make the move go smoothly. Nate’s group travelled to the Food Chain, a Lexington non-profit that provides fresh food to food-insecure families in the community. The group helped clean and repair the equipment that Food Chain uses to grow fresh fruits and vegetables.


    The HOBY conference encourages ambassadors to take their service home with them. If the students complete 100 hours of community service after the conference, they become eligible to return to the conference the following summer as Junior Staff members. Nate will complete most of his hours during a summer mission trip to Peru, but Mackenzie is dedicating her service to Wayne County. “I’m more motivated than ever to pour my energy into bettering my community,” she said.


    Mackenzie wants to encourage next year’s sophomores to apply for this opportunity next year. She wants to bump into Wayne County kids when she returns as a Junior Staff member. According to her, the HOBY conference is more than just a resume builder. It’s an opportunity to expand your world.


“I became so close to the people there, it felt like I’ve known them all my life”, she remembered.


“Everyone who goes to HOBY is from a different background,” Nate added. “It was interesting to get to know everyone.”


    Over 375,000 teens have attended HOBY conferences across the country since its founding in 1958. To learn more about Kentucky’s HOBY Leadership Conference, visit


kenzie and nate

Mackenzie Crabtree and Nate Helton


kenzie's hoby group

Mackenzie (second row, far right) poses with her HOBY group


Nate's group

Nate (second row, blue shirt) took a selfie with his newfound friends


group scavenger hunt

The HOBY groups participate in a scavenger hunt to explore Lexington as part of a team-building exercise. Mackenzie (far right) said the rain couldn't stop her group from completing the scavenger hunt. The students also get to attend a college fair and listen to convocation speakers during the conference.


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