DOWNEY – The Optimist Club of Downey presented five scholarships to deserving high school seniors from Downey schools and a total of 15 other cash prizes to local student winners of its Oratorical and Essay Contests at its annual Scholarship and Awards luncheon.
Held at Rio Hondo Event Center on June 4, the luncheon showcased exceptional students from Downey, Warren and Columbus High Schools.
“We reviewed more than 150 scholarship applications and interviewed more than 20 students,” said Optimist Club Scholarship Chair and community leader Beverly Mathis. “We had dozens of very deserving candidates, and those who received $1,000 Optimist Scholarships were truly amazing,” she said.
Scholarship recipients included Alejandra Nogales from Columbus High, Mauro Franco from Downey High and Genesis Calderon from Warren High. In addition, Warren Humanitarian Society members Rafael Delatorre and Alyssa Jimenez were awarded Optimist Scholarships.
“I was deeply touched by the comments our scholarship winners made,” said Optimist President Fred Donnelly. “They represent the very best, and we are proud to be supporting such wonderful young people. The Optimist Club was founded to be a friend of youth, and that is exactly what are all about here in Downey,” he added.
Each of the scholarship recipients made remarks that touched the hearts of the audience, especially when they talked about the impact their friends, family and teachers had on their lives. For example, Alejandra brought tears to the eyes of nearly everyone in the room when she thanked her father for his tireless devotion to her and her siblings.
“My dad has given up everything for his kids,” she said. “We are so blessed to have a father who has taught us what was right from wrong, showed us what commitment and loyalty means, and worked multiple jobs at one time so that we would have opportunities in life that he missed out on. I can’t imagine how there could ever be a more loving and devoted father. I love you, Daddy.”
“We are so proud of every one of these exceptional students,” said Optimist Club member and former Downey mayor Meredith Perkins. “As a contest judge, I saw our Oratorical Contest entrants in action this year. Let me tell you, these kids are really special. What a thrill it is to join our fellow Downey service clubs in supporting these great young students who make us so excited for our city’s future.”
In addition to the five scholarships it awarded at the luncheon, the Optimist Club also presented 15 checks totaling $5,300 to winners in its 2015 Essay and Oratorical Contests. This is the highest cash award total presented to Essay and Oratorical Contest winners of any local Optimist Club in the world.
Winners of the Oratorical Contest were announced in a previous issue of The Downey Patriot.
The winners of the Essay Contest, who were announced at the luncheon, included:
• First place – Bernardo Carillo
• Second place – Cristian Pardo
• Third place – Angelique Franco
• Fourth place – Daniel Pardo
• Fifth place – Alyssa Jimenez
• Sixth place (tie) – Rafael Delatorre, Andrew Del Valle and Brittney Lizarraga
Like most local service clubs, the number of Optimist Club of Downey members has been slowly drifting downward for the last decade.
“Just as these incredible young people we honored with our Scholarship and Achievement Awards represent the future of our city, we are seeking the next generation of Optimist Club members,” said club member Tom Burney. “We welcome anyone who would like to join us in supporting the youth of our community to visit our club meetings on Thursdays at noon in the Executive Room of Hackers Restaurant at the Rio Hondo Event Center.”
“We really appreciate seeing first-hand the positive impact we have on the lives of the children of Downey,” said longtime Optimist Club member Roy Acker. “I think it’s fair to say that all our members enjoy making a meaningful difference in the lives of so many young people.”
“When you watch the news, all you see are the problems of today’s youth,” said club member John Taormina. “Yet when you work side-by-side with these kids, as we do at Downey’s Pumpkin Patch and other community events, you realize how caring and committed the students are to selflessly helping others. And isn’t that what service is all about?”
“It’s a privilege to attend the Scholarship and Awards Luncheon and listen to our scholarship winners tell us about their hopes for the future,” Optimist Club member John Marifian said. “We are truly honored to play a small part in helping them make their dreams come true.”
For more information about the Optimist Club of Downey, call Tom Burney at (562) 644-4913 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.