In 1928, Optimist International started the Optimist Oratorical Contest, the oldest of its scholarship programs. Each year since that time, young speakers have worked their way from the Optimist Club level to the Zone and District level to compete for prizes. The prizes have ranged from medals to modest scholarship awards and for many years, the top prize has been a $2,500 scholarship payable to the college or university of the winning student.
Coming in 2016, the Optimist Oratorical Contest is receiving a makeover. It will still involve the Optimist Club, Zone and District levels, but it has been enhanced to be truly international with more scholarship money - $22,500 - to claim.
Thanks to a partnership with St. Louis University, District winners will advance to a Regional level for a chance to win an additional $5,000. Winners from each of the 8 Regions will then advance to international competition where they will compete with oratorical contestants from around the world for $15,000.
Details for the competition at the Regional and International level are still being finalized; however, students can begin preparing today for their local and state or district-wide events. The theme is "How My Best Brings Out the Best in Others."
Students must be 18 years old or younger as of October 1, 2015. Find complete rules and learn more at this link: Optimist International World Championships Oratorical Contest 2016.
All scholarship contests begin at the club level. Click here to find an Optimist Club near you.
This post first appeared on Experience Optimism, July 30, 2015.