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Laura Singleton / White Mountain Independent
Laura Singleton / White Mountain Independent

Sequoia sophomore chosen as AZ youth leadership delegate

Posted On: 2017-07-12 09:08 AM
From White Mountain Independent...

By Laura Singleton The Independent

SHOW LOW — Eli Valencia, a 16-year-old sophomore at Sequoia Village High School, has been named one of the two Arizona delegates to represent the state at the 2017 Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership (HOBY) conference in Chicago.

Valencia was chosen out of 275 other sophomores that were selected and attended the four-day leadership seminar at Arizona State University in early June. He is the male HOBY representative for Arizona, while a sophomore from Gilbert was chose as the female HOBY representative.

The HOBY program recognizes outstanding leadership potential which is demonstrated by a desire to learn and share knowledge, and respect for human beings.

"I did not expect this. Sequoia had not given me any clue or warning but I am honored," Valencia said. "HOBY teaches you how to be successful in life, how to apply yourself and how to innovate. They don't tell you what to think, but help you learn how to think."

Valencia's mother, Colleen, says that her son has been through many struggles and spent several years in the CPS system until she and her husband adopted him.

Colleen said that Eli was "always getting into trouble" when they lived in Globe-Miami. When they decided to move to Pinedale and enroll the kids in Sequoia Village School, everything changed. The new town, new environment and different school was the right combination. Colleen said that Eli "went from straight F's to straight A's!"

Eli is the second-oldest out of five children. Eli's biological sibling is Trey, 22. After Eli is Jonah, 15; Kay'cee, 11; and Benjamin, 9.

Colleen said she is proud of Eli and his siblings.

"HOBY has reinforced everything I have tried teaching them throughout the years," she said. "The only thing they can't do is the thing that they don't try."

Eli said he is excited about his upcoming eight-day trip to Chicago for the HOBY Youth Leadership Conference. His favorite subjects are math and English, but he is also athletic and enjoys playing football and boxing.

When asked about his career plans, Eli says that he wants to be an anesthesiologist. He explained how he had seven sets of ear tubes put in from the time he was 7 until he turned 12. Through the experience of having multiple surgeries, Eli became fascinated with the process of being lulled into sleep before each surgery. He describes it as a peaceful experience where his parents were always there right before he "fell asleep" and when he woke up.

Hugh O'Brien, founder of the program, describes the HOBY delegates as "being the steward of his or her own destiny with great power for a specific purpose: To share with others, through service, a reverence for life in a spirit of love."

Photos: Laura Singleton / White Mountain Independent