NSA student excels at leadership

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Marissa Spruiell, a junior at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, was selected by her teachers last year to participate in a prestigious leadership program: The Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) World Leadership Congress (WLC), held in Washington, D.C. July 23-31.

This was a positive step in her academic career trail, one that will help her follow in her parents’ footsteps as a medical doctor.

The Spruiell family has good friends in Dolly and George Richards. About 10 years ago, the Richards invited me to their church, First Baptist Church on Mahan Street, to meet two people excelling in their respective careers- Drs. Gloria and Linwood Spruiell. Gloria practices dentistry in Newport News and Linwood is an anesthesiologist at Obici Hospital. The couple had two young children, Ryan, then 2, and Marissa, who was 5.

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More than a month after her trip, Marissa, now 15, is still feeling the excitement of her week. HOBY was created in 1958 by veteran actor Hugh O’Brien, television’s Wyatt Earp. The WLC program brings together 475 high school sophomore students from all 50 states and 19 countries and provides them with a unique opportunity to gain leadership training. The regional congress focused on Situations Facing the World Today and the 2004 WLC-theme: &uot;Uniting the World’s Youth of Today for a Better Tomorrow.&uot;

Spruiell qualified to participate in the WLC after attending a Regional HOBY Leadership Congress on a weekend in May at Christopher Newport College. Her guidance counselor, Clarissa Melvin, recommended her for the opportunity.

Spruiell said Melvin told her the program would open a lot of doors for her.

The WLC program in Washington lasted nine days. It was the first time that Marissa had spent so much time away from her family.

&uot;I was going to enter into a new environment, so naturally I was a little nervous,&uot; she said

It was also her first time traveling on an airplane alone. However, an aunt was scheduled to meet her in D.C. to take her to the right location.

When she arrived at George Washington University, Marissa was assigned to a room with three other students. Students were divided into groups and each day, they listened to five speakers. Spruiell said that they were always moving and never had the chance to get bored. O’Brian made sure of that with his careful planning of activities and gaining knowledge of how to make it a success.

When O’Brien visited with Dr. Albert Schweitzer at his clinic in Africa in 1958, Dr. Schweitzer impressed upon him that the most important thing in education was to teach young people to think for themselves. That thought became the cornerstone of HOBY.

HOBY creates opportunities for teens to build critical thinking skills and promotes democracy and America’s incentive system. With the assistance of guest speakers, it illustrates social responsibility among individuals and corporations.

The program also gives students a hands-on opportunity to interact with today’s top movers and shakers in business, government, education, technology and other professions.

Spruiell said she definitely loves what HOBY stands for-the opportunity of coming together with other teens from different cultures. Colleges and universities were also on hand to promote their programs and Spruiell said she took full advantage of the opportunity.

&uot;I went around to all of them because I remember the founder telling us that we get out of the program what we put into it, and I want to make sure that I make the right decision about college,&uot; she said.

Dr. Gloria Spruiell said that it is wonderful that HOBY offers this leadership program to sophomores.

&uot;As a sophomore, the student still has two more years where he or she can grow and better develop her leadership skills.&uot;

Dr. Linwood Spruiell said that there was another leadership event that Marissa wanted to attend but didn’t have the opportunity to do so.

&uot;Marissa made the statement to children in church that when a door closes, God opens another door and he opened this door,&uot; he said. &uot;It proved to be the right one for her.&uot;

Marissa said she appreciated the chance to go the leadership conference.

&uot;I want to thank my guidance counselor for giving me this opportunity,&uot; she said. &uot;I also want to thank my parents who paid for my trip.

&uot;I am very blessed that they are able to provide for me in this way and that they are able to send me to the school that I love, Nansemond-Suffolk Academy.&uot;

Evelyn Wall is a regular columnist for the Suffolk News-Herald.