2015 World Leadership Congress

When someone explains to you, when discussing the Hugh O’Brien World Leadership Congress, that you are in for the greatest experience of your life, you have your doubts. You have heard the hype. You know WLC will be an incredible experience, but the best of your life? Does this person really expect me to believe that these 8 days will be the greatest of my life? What if it isn’t the greatest experience of my life? Those are some pretty high standards, and that means there is a lot of room for disappointment there. So you get on the plane with high hopes and huge expectations, and when it comes time to board the plane heading back home, you reflect on this experience that is WLC and you realize it not only met, but exceeded, any and all expectations you had heading into the week.
The World Leadership Congress (WLC) is an eight-day, leadership-oriented seminar held at Loyola University, a beautiful school located right on the shores of Lake Michigan, just minutes outside of the heart of Chicago, IL. I was fortunate to attend the WLC with 18 other 2015 alumni from MA. There is no praise high enough for WLC. It truly was the greatest experience of my life, and I am sure any other ambassador, of whom there were approximately 450 from 48 states and 14 countries (some of which included China, Taiwan, South Korea, Turkey, France, Canada, Mexico, etc.), could attest to its wonder.

In an email a week prior to the World Leadership Congress, my group’s facilitator gave my group a few tips, two of them being,
“1. Sleep- It will be an exhausting week as we are doing so much, so prepare by sleeping now.
2. Get excited- The energy levels will be at an all-time high. BOOM!”

He was right. The agenda for the 2015 WLC was jam-packed with activities and events. Ambassadors were up at 6:00 a.m. and were kept busy with activities and festivities all day and night, sometimes until 2:00 a.m. And despite whatever time the clock read, every ambassador took advantage of the opportunity presented to him/her. This was only appropriate seeing as the theme song for the seminar was “I lived,” a song by One Republic. And the goal of the week, and for the rest of our lives for that matter, was and is to “own every second,” as the song suggests.

Two specific activities, which stood out among the rest, are the two community service projects in which we participated. In the first community service project, ambassadors cleaned Chicago’s Humboldt Park, mulching and painting, and contributing more than 1,650 hours of community service and upwards of $125,000 worth of paid labor to the Chicago Parks District. The Parks District verified that this project was the “largest-ever youth-centered service project in the more than 150-year history of the city’s parks.” Even the local news reported on the event, the story can be seen here: http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2015/07/21/students-clean-up-humboldt-park-f....
The second community service project entailed bagging and packaging upwards of 55,000 meals for school children in need within the city of Chicago. And ambassadors completed this task in under an hour. The same news station, CBS Chicago, also reported on this major community service project. Here is the link to the video following that story:

Other significant activities included The Amazing Race, in which groups hit the city with a list of clues directing them to significant sights, buildings, and monuments throughout the city. The Museum of Science and Industry was another highlight of my WLC experience. The museum is a very interesting one, housing the only German U-boat from World War II in the United States, a highly impressive and complicated mirror maze, and many other intriguing and interactive exhibits. And of course, where would HOBY be without guest speakers? I cannot speak highly enough of the motivational speakers and panels of entrepreneurs who spoke to the ambassadors. These speakers represent the backbone of WLC, and they did not disappoint.

The seminar itself was incredible, but there was another factor that contributed to the OUTSTANDING nature of WLC, and that was the human interaction. So many bonds were made within those eight days, and there will be friendships that last a lifetime as a result. I found it incredibly interesting conversing with ambassadors from throughout the country and around the world. I loved learning about each region’s culture and I loved just having the simplest, casual conversations with people from different backgrounds than mine. I even got to practice the Spanish I’ve learned since seventh grade, by speaking in Spanish with one of the girls from Mexico. This piece, the human interaction, is truly what made WLC so great. I will never forget the people I met and connected with at WLC.

If none of what I’ve said so far is convincing enough for you to consider going to the World Leadership Congress, then you can feel free to email me at mjgross@hillers.org, and maybe I can do some more convincing. You can also reach me at the same email listed above if you have any questions or comments for me in particular. Thank you for your time!

-Matt Gross (2015 MA HOBY & WLC alum)