The Art Optimist Kiwanis Club (AOK Club) was charted in 2007, after Middle School Volunteer Optimist Kiwanis Kids (VOKK) members came to WHS as freshmen looking for a similar club to join. It was then we decided to reassess and restructure our club to become the new AOK Club. We meet every other Tuesday mornings at 7:30 am, or as needed. Many projects are worked on after school, and students often come whenever they can.
WHS students in grades 9-12 are welcome to join at any time. You may ask, “Why should kids join AOK Club?” There are many good reasons to consider joining, members of this Club benefit in many ways. To become a member costs nothing but a student’s time and talents. Contrary to belief, being a good artist is not necessary. The AOK Club is all about giving time and talents to community service and project events. Our current membership is 21 and growing. We have members who come from all different walks of life and, though sports and other extracurricular offerings may not be their thing, AOK Club offers opportunities abound! The AOK Mission Statement is: “To embrace diversity in our community; to develop positive character traits and leadership skills through community service projects and volunteer efforts at the local and national level.”
The local adult Worthington Optimist and Kiwanis Clubs both support AOK club by paying the annual student dues, and also funding certain projects throughout the year. We have a very strong working relationship with our adult clubs and often do many projects together throughout the course of the year. Some of our annual activities include: the Annual Easter Egg Hunt, Painting at Pioneer Village, Painting wood toys for the Annual Community Christmas baskets, Manning the Kids Art Tent at the Annual Regatta, etc. AOK has a team at the Relay for Life event and do other fundraisers to make money for Cancer, and have raised money for many other charities too. Making blankets for children through the “Linus Project” has been very rewarding as well. This is great on a number of levels; it bridges the gap between young and old and helps the youth see they can volunteer as an adult too, in their future. Youth today are often given a bad rap and are stereotyped based on color or age. AOK club has opened the eyes of many older residents of Worthington as they see our members are out serving our community in a positive leadership role. Many members come into the club shy and insecure, but after a few years of AOK Club they graduate as active and confident leaders, who will be the future of America. They also qualify for many scholarships and have great volunteer work experience record that looks good on any resume’.
AOK members learn that we all can make a difference in our community and world if we take actions to work for the betterment of all. The goals and objectives of AOK include; reaching out to help others in need, working together and collaborating with other organizations, promoting positive role models in our community, becoming an all inclusive club and encouraging members of all multicultural backgrounds, and continue bringing grant dollars into our community to promote and encourage the arts. AOK club members can proudly boast that we are currently forming a Worthington Public Arts Commission because of a grant written by a former member. Without the work done by AOK Club there would be little or no public art within our community. The public pieces currently displayed at Sailboard Beach were created by grants from Southwest MN Arts and Humanities Council (SMAHC), written through AOK Club.