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Optimist Programs and Scholarships

Optimist International sponsors three scholarship contests for students to earn money to pursue opportunities in higher education: the Communication Contest for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CCDHH), the Essay Contest and the Oratorical Contest. The contests are conducted at the Club level, then Zone and Regional (if necessary) and at the District level. District-level scholarships are funded by the Optimist International Foundations and awarded by Optimist International.


Oratorical Championship

The Optimist Oratorical Contest gives students the chance to speak to the world. More than $150,000 in college scholarships funded by the Optimist International Foundations is awarded annually from this program.

First conducted in 1928, this is the second most popular Optimist International Program. Nearly 2,000 clubs participate in this program each year. The winners at the Club level receive medallions and Zone winners receive a plaque. Districts have the opportunity to provide a first place scholarship of $2,500, a second place scholarship of $1,500, and a third place scholarship of $1,000.


Essay Contest

The Essay Contest is sponsored by Optimist International to give young people the opportunity to write about their own opinions regarding the world in which they live. The approach can encompass a young person’s personal experience, the experience of their country or a more historical perspective. In additional to developing skills for written expression, participants also have the opportunity to win a college scholarship!

Club winners advance to the District contest to compete for a $2,500 college scholarship. The District-level scholarships are funded by the Optimist International Foundations.


Communication Contest for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing

This contest offers an opportunity for children who are deaf or hard of hearing to present their thoughts in the community, gaining skills, which can only come from signing or speaking to a large audience. Patterned after the Optimist Oratorical Contest, the Communication Contest For the Deaf and Hard of Hearing offers hearing impaired youth the chance to compete in speech or sign language. The Optimist International Foundations fund a $2,500 scholarship to any District that meets the minimum participation criteria.

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Junior Optimist International (JOI) Clubs


Junior Optimist International was officially formed in 1988. It is the umbrella organization which links the local Junior Optimist International Clubs and Members to others throughout the world. Much like Optimist International, Junior Optimist is governed by an International Board of Directors, as well as District Officers.

From the Club level on up, Members have the opportunity to develop leadership and teambuilding skills all while helping communities. Each year there is an International Convention, which gives Members the opportunity to share in the decision-making process of the organization, meet young people with similar interests and goals, grow from training seminars…...and have fun!

Participation in Junior Optimist International gives young people the opportunity to serve their communities. Students who are involved in Junior Optimist Clubs learn about and practice good citizenship, teamwork, communication and money management. They feel good about themselves and have high self-esteem.

Membership in Junior Optimist Clubs helps to develop friendships with others who share the same interests. There are opportunities for personal growth and leadership positions at Club, District, and International levels. Junior Optimist exposes Members to Optimism as a philosophy of life, provides Members with an improved sense of kindness, increased awareness for those in need, and a better sense of coping with cultural diversity. It also provides members the opportunity to complete community service hours required for graduation.

South Carolina JOI

The South Carolina Optimist District has made the students of South Carolina a priority.  We currently have three Junior Optimist Clubs across the state and are actively working to charter several more.

Current JOI Clubs include:

  • Rock Hill Central City JOI in Rock Hill, SC

  • Palmetto Junior Optimist Club in Sumter, SC

  • Socastee Junior Optimist Jazz Band in Myrtle Beach, SC

Future JOI Clubs in Progress include:​

  • Clemson JOI, in Clemson, SC

  • Palmetto Octagon JOI in Sumter, SC

  • St Andrews JOI in Myrtle Beach, SC

  • Children's Cancer Partners JOI, Virtual statewide

Three Age Groups for JOI

Junior Optimist Clubs are separated into three age groups.

  • Alpha - Elementary school age

  • Junior - Middle school

  • Octagon - High School

Start a JOI Club

You may charter a Junior Optimist International Club with only eight Junior Optimist International Members. There is a one-time enrollment fee of $50, an annual registration fee of $60 and membership dues are as follows: $8 per member per year for Alpha Clubs and $10 per member per year for Junior Optimist and Octagon Clubs. The registration and member fees are prorated depending on the month you charter the Junior Optimist International Club. Also, Junior Optimist International Clubs are only required to pay for the first 50 members.

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