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The Optimist Club Honors Students

“How do you let your friends know their value?” was essay topic.

The Optimists of Greater Vienna awarded cash prizes to three area high school students who won the local 2013 Optimists International essay competition. Left to right is Optimist Club of Greater Vienna president Laurie Cole, parent Sandy Le Duc, third-place winner Megan Le Duc, first-place winner Taylor Austin, education committee chair Barbara McHale and Taylor’s aunt and uncle, Laura and Carlton Colter. Third-place winner Olivia Hammermaster was unavailable.

The Optimists of Greater Vienna awarded cash prizes to three area high school students who won the local 2013 Optimists International essay competition. Left to right is Optimist Club of Greater Vienna president Laurie Cole, parent Sandy Le Duc, third-place winner Megan Le Duc, first-place winner Taylor Austin, education committee chair Barbara McHale and Taylor’s aunt and uncle, Laura and Carlton Colter. Third-place winner Olivia Hammermaster was unavailable. Photo by Donna Manz.

The Optimist Club of Greater Vienna awarded three local high school students cash prizes for their winning essays produced for the Optimists International competition, “How do you let your friends know their value?” The presentation took place Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the Optimists’ semi-monthly meeting.

First-place winner Taylor Austin and third-place winner Olivia Hammermaster are George C. Marshall High School students. Second-place winner Megan Le Duc is a James Madison High School student.

Forty Vienna-area students submitted blind entries to Greater Vienna Optimists at the local level.

“To me, true friendship is caring about each other and showing it, letting my friends know how important they are,” said Taylor, a Marshall freshman who moved to Northern Virginia this year, leaving behind her old friends.

Olivia Hammermaster, a senior, had prior commitments and was unavailable to be at the awards presentation.

Madison senior Megan Le Duc said she takes steps to help her friends reach their goals. “I believe in my friends,” she said. “The people I appreciate are the ones who appreciate me.”

THE FIRST-PLACE WINNER received an award for $300; second-place winner an award of $200; and third-place an award of $100. Winning essays go on to the next level, the regional competition, where top prize is $2,500. The winners gave examples of efforts they make to assure their friends of their value, from listening to other friends’ problems to taking an extra step on their behalf.

Requests for submission and rules and explanation were sent to the career counselors at George C. Marshall, James Madison and Oakton high schools. Cover sheets were removed to delete identification of submitter and each essay was assigned a number for identification. Judges based their evaluation on a list of criteria that included essay content, grammar, punctuation and adherence to essay rules. Essays were to be written within 700 to 800 words, and points removed as a penalty for failure to conform to the requirements.

Barbara McHale chairs the education committee and overseas the high school essay competition. Optimists Anna Ryjik, Kathryn McHale and Mark Goldberg judged the essays.

Optimists International focuses on youth and each chapter develops its own outreach; its slogan is “bringing out the best in kids.” Optimists International adopted childhood cancer support as its main campaign mission, and the Optimist Club of Greater Vienna partners with “Growing Hope” of Northern Virginia, a resource and support program for families of cancer-stricken children. The Vienna Optimists fundraise on Growing Hope’s behalf. The signature cancer-focused fundraiser is the annual walk and family fun day, held in early fall.

THE OPTIMIST CLUB of Greater Vienna operates Vienna’s outdoor farmers’ market and maintains the red caboose sitting alongside the W & OD trail intersecting Church Street. The Christmas tree sale raises much of the club’s operating revenue.

To learn more about Optimists International and the Optimist Club of Greater Vienna, go to http://www.optimistclubofgreatervienna.org/. The club holds competitions for school-aged children throughout the year.