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Winners in the Essay Contest sponsored by Optimist Club of Madison are Kathryn Humphress with her parents, from left, third place; Carter Gjesvold and his mother, second place; and Sherry Yu, first place, and her mother; and Optimist members Reggie Snell and Meleighsa McLaughlin. CONTRIBUTED

Yu, Gjesvold and Humphress win in Optimist Essay Contest

MADISON – In one of its most popular civic projects, Optimist Club of Madison has announced the winners of its annual Optimist Essay Contest.

Students in Madison high schools – both public and private – are eligible to participate in the contest, which club members have designed to promote optimism in attitude, daily life and participation in community. The subject of this year’s contest was “How does an optimistic mindset affect my tomorrow?”

The 2022 winners are Sherry Yu, first place; Carter Gjesvold, second place; and Kathryn Humphress, third place. “This year, there were 21 entries from both Bob Jones and James Clemens high schools,” Optimist Publicist Vic van Leeuwen said.

“While there isn’t competition between the schools in this contest, all three winners are from James Clemens. In fact, all three winners are from one class: Ms. Meleighsa McLaughlin’s class,” van Leeuwen said.

“The Madison club is one of several Optimist groups in the Alabama/Mississippi zone (region). Our winner’s essay now goes to that level for judging. The zone winner’s essay then will go to district for judging. The ultimate prize is a scholarship,” van Leeuwen said.

When van Leeuwen contacted Yu, Gjesvold and Humphress to let them know they had won, all three teenagers were surprised at their accomplishment.

Optimists International is a civic organization dedicated to the development, recognition and support of young people worldwide.

The Optimist Club of Madison has as its motto, “A Friend to Youth.” In keeping with that motto, the organization often awards grants to educational causes in Madison City Schools.

The English Language Learners program with students who speak another native language has benefited. Optimists also have helped with a field trip to Huntsville Botanical Garden and a graduation program for eighth-graders at Discovery Middle School. MCS personnel have expressed appreciation for faithful support of the Optimist Club, along with assistance from individual members.

“These grants are intended to provide the clubs (and students) with funds to further the aims of the individual organizations,” van Leeuwen said. “The organizations ranged from libraries to counseling, mental health, math and Spanish. The Optimist Club of Madison feels that direct support of these and other MCS organizations provide the maximum effect for the students and the club.”

In addition, Optimist Club of Madison began a new tradition in 2021. “We collected food for those in need and delivered it to the Food Bank of North Alabama. We filled their blue barrels plus more boxes,” van Leeuwen said.

Optimist Club of Madison meets monthly on third Tuesdays at 6 p.m. at Madison Public Library, and the club welcomes new members. For more information, call Ann van Leeuwen at 256-461-8787.

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