Optimist International, one of the largest service club organizations in the world, is dedicated to making the “future brighter by bringing out the best in children, in their communities, and in themselves,” according to the group’s website.
The volunteer-driven organization mentors youths on developing their full potential by promoting interest in government and civic affairs and by cultivating a positive vision for their future. And thanks to the SUCCESS Foundation, the Mount Hebron Dreamkeepers Optimist Club in Lesslie, South Carolina, has positively impacted the lives of more than 200 area youths with the SUCCESS for Teens personal-development curriculum and its key book, SUCCESS for Teens: Real Teens Talk about Using the Slight Edge.
Charles Robinson, club president and a deacon at Mount Hebron Baptist Church, the club’s headquarters, first learned about the curriculum when the president of another area optimist club referenced SUCCESS for Teens during a presentation about the dropout rate crisis at the South Carolina Optimist District Conference.
In 2010 Robinson launched the Youth Empowerment Service (YES) mentoring program using SUCCESS for Teens as its cornerstone. (The SUCCESS Foundation donates hard copies of the book to qualifying public schools, churches and nonprofit youth-development programs; SUCCESSFoundation.org offers free downloads of the book and facilitator’s guides to everyone.)
“The YES mentoring program was the X-factor that enabled the South Carolina Optimist District to receive Outstanding & Distinguished achievement within the Top 10 Optimist Clubs in Optimist International,” Robinson says.
“I find that teens respond favorably to the book and curriculum,” Robinson says.
Chapter 4, “Everything Starts with Small Steps,” and Chapter 5, “There’s No Such Thing as Failure,” resonates the most with the teens, Robinson says, adding: “My takeaway is you can’t hit the ball if you don’t go up to the plate and swing.”
The club also uses SUCCESS for Teens for its Youth Appreciation Awards; Essay & Oratorical Contest; sports program; and Youth Appreciation Fundraiser basketball game where YES student groups perform during halftime.
Robinson, a vocal supporter of the program, estimates he’s shared SUCCESS for Teens with more than 1,000 fellow club members and friends.
“We will continue to build on our endeavors by using the SUCCESS for Teens principles,” he says. “Our legacy is to leave the world a better place to live, to learn, to serve and to enjoy.”
To request books, learn about the program, share your story about it or make a contribution, visit SUCCESSFoundation.org. Leaders, participants and donors can request a profile in SUCCESS by emailing info@SUCCESSFoundation.org.
This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of SUCCESS magazine.