MIDLOTHIAN — A group on the Frank Seale Middle School campus chartered the first Junior Optimist Club in Midlothian. Their chapter is heavily involved with volunteering at businesses but is now looking to raise money for scholarships and contests.
The Junior Optimist Club is planning to host a Harry Potter, winter formal themed dance after the holiday season as an opportunity to raise funds to further benefit those involved.
Sixth-grade English language arts and reading teacher, Jennifer Barnes, who is also the student council sponsor, said “We give out scholarships and there’s going to be contests. But in order to fund those scholarships, because we are brand new, we wanted to do a type of fundraiser along the lines of giving back to the community.”
With the chapter only being a few months old, it already has more than 100 members. But Barnes wants to emphasize is that the club is open to all kids in the Midlothian area, ages six to 19.
The club’s purpose is to help kids find service projects based on what interests them. With a growing group of kids wanting to serve the Midlothian and surrounding communities, Barnes said they are in need of more businesses to help out.
“We need more businesses. We’ve got a lot but we just need more for the amount of students. We’ve got more than 100 students signed up and if we keep getting more, which I suspect we will, we’re going to need more places to send them,” Barnes explained.
While the club is searching for more ways to help out, they are also in need of sponsors for the dance they are organizing. Barnes said she wants to steer away from having the venue for the dance at the school. Even though it’s the most cost-efficient, she wants to bring students from all schools together and not meet at Frank Seale’s stomping grounds.
“We are trying to get people to sponsor a venue or donate a venue for us to use for the evening,” Barnes said.
Glenda White is the president of Arlington’s Community Athletics Optimist Club and is sponsoring the Midlothian chapter.
She said, “As an optimist, my grandfather started our club, so I’m glad Ms. Barnes has done one for her community. It’s good to see a chapter like this come about where kids can go out in the community and not just serve kids, but they can do all of these leadership projects.”
The Midlothian chapter has already volunteered with different aspects of the community such as the Miracle League and Meals on Wheels. Barnes said the chapter is looking forward to helping with Longbranch Elementary’s fall carnival, Feed by Grace, Paws for Reflection and bell ringing for the Salvation Army.
Barnes said the ultimate goal is to have kids from all Midlothian schools and homeschooled kids join the Junior Optimist Club and give back.
“The biggest thing is just getting these kids to understand the service heart feeling, getting out there and serving. This community gives everything to us. I tell my kids that ‘we wouldn’t have what we have here without them,’ so we need to turn around and give back,” Barnes said.