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VAN WERT - The Optimist Club of Van Wert is encouraging area students to contemplate the phrase "How Can I Help My Friends Realize Their Value" as part of the Optimist International Essay Contest for 2013. The contest is open to students under age 19 who have not yet graduated from high school or the equivalent.

The Essay Contest entry deadline is Feb. 11. The Optimist Club will judge the local students' essays, and determine the top winners. Local winners will receive Cash Awards of 1st place ($200), 2nd place ($100), and 3rd place ($50). The winning essay will advance to the district contest to compete for a $2,500 college scholarship, with district winners advancing to the international-level judging.

Students wishing to participate in the essay contest can receive application information and find out more by contacting the Club Essay Chair, Diana Cearns, at (419) 749-2571 or pjcdjc@frontier.com.

The Optimist Club sponsors many local youth programs and conducts positive service projects, which include its annual After Prom service project, the Artrageous local event in June and the upcoming Oratorical Contest, also held for local students.

It's the Optimist goal to encourage students to bring out the best in each of them. To learn more about the Club or for membership interest, please contact Ray Able, secretary/treasurer, at (419) 238-5086, or Jane Maus, president at (419) 965-2731.