Did you know that The Optimist Club was founded in Buffalo in 1911 at The Lafayette Hotel? Since that time, the international service organization has grown to almost 3,000 clubs and over 80,000 members in more than 20 countries. During that time of growth, as Buffalo was experiencing an economic decline, this city’s own Optimist Club disbanded, which was very sad considering that Buffalo is where the group was founded.
Today, Optimist International is one of the world’s largest service club organizations, spending $78 million in their communities, while impacting the live of 6 million kids annually.
In 2018, after 20 years of disbandment, Buffalo Lafayette Optimist Club (BLOC) formed, bringing with it a renewed vigor, as it set out to affect positive change in the lives of WNY youth.
Currently, BLOC is in the midst of hosting its Optimist International Oratorical Contest for the 2018-2019 year. The contest encourages are students to speak on the following subject – “Is There a Fine Line Between Optimism and Reality?” The students’ speeches will be judged based on the criteria of both content and presentation. The winners will walk away with a medallion, certificate, and will advance to the Zone level. From there, winners at the Zone level will advance to the District level, where three winners will be awarded $2,500, $1,500, and $1,000, respectively.
The District winner will be invited to participate in the International World Championship competition at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, July 18-20, 2019.
Winners taking first, second, and third place at the International World Championship will be granted $15,000, $10,000, and $5,000 scholarships, respectively.
The contest is open to all students in Erie County under the age of 19 as of October 1, 2018.
“As they prepare for their future, many of our local students need experience expressing their thoughts and opinions to an audience,” Club President Kathleen Kratochvil said. “The Oratorical Contest challenges them to do just that and also offers an opportunity for scholarships. In this way, our club hopes to bring out the best in each of them and help them achieve their goals for the future. We would love nothing more than to see a student from Buffalo take home the gold!”
The deadline to submit applications and draft speeches (4-5 minute duration) is Friday, February 1, 2019. Students wishing to participate in the oratorical contest can find out more about the contest by contacting the club at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling Ruth Shatzel at (716) 348-4500. Applications can be found on the Optimist International website.
The county contest is scheduled to take place Saturday, February 9, 2019, at 9 a.m. in the West Room of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, 1 Lafayette Square.
Anyone interested in joining the Optimist Club is invited to attend the regular bimonthly meetings, held the first and third Thursdays of the month, beginning Thursday, January 3. The group meets in the Mezzanine Room of the Lafayette Brewing Co., 391 Washington St. inside the Hotel Lafayette.