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Seward High Students Share Leadership Opportunities at SHS with Seward Rotary Club Membership

Ken Schmieding was the Seward Rotarian of the Week/Program Chair for Wednesday, January 24, 2024
and he introduced SHS Sophomore Avery Rodocker and Esten Johnsen, an SHS Junior, They spoke on a
variety of leadership opportunities at Seward High and promoted the various avenues of service
available at SHS. Avery is the daughter of Sarah and Tony Rodocker of Seward and Esten is the son of
Steven and Angela Johnsen of Seward. They both presented an overview of the many organizational
opportunities at Seward High and then focused and promoted the Hugh O Brian Youth Leadership
Program (HOBY) and the Sophomore Pilgrimage Program as well.
They commented that there are five service groups/organizations at Seward High: Key Club, which
involves Youth Service and sponsored by the Seward Kiwanis Club, the Family Community Career
Leaders of America (FCCLA) has a focus on Family Consumer Science, Skill USA which is under the
umbrella of the service, technology and assorted vocational skill areas and the Future Business Leaders
of America (FBLA) has a very real business/technology aspect as well. The SHS FFA program was
formerly the Future Farmers of America and has since changed to FFA, although there is still a major
focus on Ag and the various opportunities in Ag today. All of the current service directed groups have a
major element of Leadership and Character Development in their programs, with outstanding faculty
sponsors working with each group.
While other leadership opportunities abound in other areas of SHS, such as the music, arts, drama,
speech and sports programs, the service organizations also that have specific leadership programs that
have competitions to develop the leadership even more. Many, if not most of these contests, happen at
the state level-at the conferences and workshops, with students also qualifying for national leadership
events too.
One of the Leadership Programs that both students focused on at SHS was the Hugh O Brian Youth
Leadership program. They noted that one student of each school is selected to represent the school at
the annual state HOBY Conference. This year’s HOBY Conference will be at Northeast Community
College in Norfolk, NE-last year it was hosted at Concordia University in Seward. Esten Johnsen was the
SHS student representative that attended last year and Audrey Rodocker was selected to represent SHS
this year in Norfolk, Nebraska.
“HOBY programs are conducted annually throughout the United States, serving more than 10,000 local
and international high school students. HOBY programs allow students to participate in unique
leadership training, service-learning and cultural experiences,” said Esten Johnsen-last year’s HOBY
Delegate. “The State Seminars are for High School Sophomores-hoping that they can then go back and
make a difference in their schools. It was started by actor Hugh O’Brian decades ago, with Seward
High’s Jennifer Kruse, selected to be the first HOBY student from SHS.”
“Each school selects their student in a different way-some appoint a student, some have students write
an essay, but Seward asks the student to make a written application and attend a personal interview
with a panel of judges-selecting the winner,” noted SHS Sophomore Avery Rodocker. “It puts a face with
the application and the selection committee can get to know the student a bit more than just a written

The SHS HOBY program is underwritten by the School District of Seward’s High Ability Learner Program
(HAL) and endorsed by the various national/international service groups in the community-The Seward
Rotary International, Kiwanis, GFWC Seward Woman’s Club and the GFWC Seward Junior Women’s
Club. These groups each have individuals from their groups who serve on the selection panel.
The students that do not get selected for the HOBY program are still honored and selected for the
“Sophomore Pilgrimage” leadership seminar in the spring in Lincoln at the State Capitol, with Mr. Trevor
Menke as the group’s faculty sponsor. Last year Esten was able to attend the “Sophomore Pilgrimage”
Program as well as HOBY. The group spends the day at the State Capitol in Lincoln and meet a variety of
the elected officials during the event. The Sophomore Pilgrimage Program is sponsored by the GFWC
Nebraska Federation of Women’s Clubs and sponsored locally by the GFWC Seward Woman’s Club and
the GFWC Seward Junior Women’s Club.
“We are blessed to have a large offering of leadership learning opportunities at Seward High and I know
that the students are stronger and more confident for having participated in one of the wonderful SHS
programs,” commented SHS Junior- Esten Johnsen. “I am excited to be part of a variety of these
leadership learning events this year and know that this summer’s HOBY will be outstanding. It is all
about personal growth and these leadership programs make that growth meaningful. Thanks to all who
make these leadership opportunities a reality?”