The Sunrise Optimist Club has promoted optimism in our community for over 50 years. The Optimist Essay Contest was started 25 years ago by club member Marie Atmore for students from Ventura area secondary schools. This year, 2020-21, we were faced with new challenges: how to distribute contest materials, how to structure the judging of the essays, and how to honor the winners all while remaining socially distanced. Club member, Louise Hewitt, rose to the occasion and organized a successful contest for two local clubs, Sunrise Optimist Club and East Ventura Clubs, giving cash prizes to each winner in first, second, and third place.
Ventura Sunrise Optimist Club
East Ventura Optimist Club
$300 First Place- Irene Kim El Camino H.S. at Ventura College
$300 First Place- Marie Bell Foothill Technology High School
$200 Second Place- James Rose Buena High School
$200 Second Place- Kampton Carter El Camino H.S. at Ventura College
$100 Third Place- Danielle Shew El Camino H.S. at Ventura College
$100 Third Place- Daniel Lancet El Camino H.S. at Ventura College
Essays were submitted from all five high schools in VUSD. Students used the prompt, “Reaching Your Dreams by Choosing Optimism,” given by Optimist International as a basis for their essays.
Judges were community members Jim McAleney, Kathy Waters, John and Clare Gahan, Ayla Smith, Marty Kinrose, and Ken McAlpine. All enjoyed the experience and want to return as judges next year.
Judge McAlpine told the Breeze “It was a joy reading the essays. It was so nice to see that the art of writing — and the art of dreaming — are still very much alive.”
At the conclusion of the contest, the club invited participants and guests to a Zoom gathering to hear the top winners read their essays. Feedback from many in attendance stated that this was truly “inspiring” at a time when “we all need to be uplifted.”
First place winning essays are being submitted to the Pacific Southwest District of Optimist International, the next level of competition, in hopes that a $2500 grand prize is in the Ventura winner’s future.