Column: AOK Club members make a differenceWORTHINGTON — As a graduate of Worthington High School (WHS) in the 1980s, I had the opportunity to be part of the WHS Art Club.
By: Gail Holinka, District 518, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — As a graduate of Worthington High School (WHS) in the 1980s, I had the opportunity to be part of the WHS Art Club. Under the direction of infamous advisor Hal Schulz, Art Club was a small group of interested art students who would get together after school. I recall our small group creating a monochromatic mural, “Pineapple in Blue,” which hung in the stairway of the north hall. Although long gone, fond memories of it will always remain. The end of the year was always celebrated with a group trip to the Twin Cities to visit art galleries.
When I graduated from WHS, I never imagined I would be back there teaching art, and, better yet, have the opportunity to be the Art Club advisor. The “old-school Art Club” has changed significantly. The current 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. We decided to restructure our club to become the new AOK Club.
WHS students in grades 9-12 are welcome to join at any time. It costs nothing but a student’s time and talents, and being a good artist is not required. The AOK Club is all about giving time and talents to community service. Our current membership is 21 and growing. 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 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, being an all-inclusive club, and to continue bringing grant dollars that promote and encourage the arts.
All AOK members have a joint membership with Junior Optimists Octagon International (JOOI Club) and the Kiwanis youth KEY Club. These clubs provide members with opportunities to provide service, build character and develop leadership skills.
The local adult Worthington Optimist and Kiwanis clubs both support our club by paying the annual student dues and funding certain projects throughout the year. We have a strong working relationship with our adult clubs and often do many projects together. Some of our activities include the annual Easter Egg Hunt, painting at Pioneer Village, painting wood toys for the Community Christmas baskets, manning the Kids Art Tent at the Regatta etc. AOK Club also has a team at the Relay for Life event and does fundraisers for other charities, too. Making blankets for Project Linus has been a rewarding project as well. These club activities bridge the gap between young and old and help members see they can also volunteer as an adult in future endeavors. Kids today are often stereotyped, and AOK members have opened the eyes of many residents of Worthington; they see our members out serving our community in positive leadership roles. After a few years in AOK Club, members graduate as active and confident leaders who will become the future of America. They also qualify for many scholarships and have a great volunteer work experience record that looks good on any resume.
Members learn that we all can make a difference in our community and world. AOK club members are proud to have played an active role in forming a Worthington Public Arts Commission, made possible through a grant written by a former member. Without the AOK Club’s active community involvement, there would be little or no public art within our community. Public art pieces currently displayed at Sailboard Beach were created by grants from Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council (SMAHC), written through AOK Club. We hope these pieces will continued to be enjoyed by the community for many years to come, and we look forward to pursuing more projects in the future.
Most club fundraisers aid in the needs of local and national charity organizations, but there are a couple annual fundraisers needed to defray costs for an annual spring trip, one of the awesome traditions that still remain a part of AOK Club today. This experience gives members an opportunity to see fine art and attend a live theater performance, which many of our members would not otherwise have the chance to do. Rewarding these kids with a trip is just a small token to repay them for their hard work all year long.
Planting seeds of opportunity and personal experiences will carry these members into their adult lives, and the benefits of the future communities they’ll impact will continue to grow! Thank you to our sponsoring adult Optimist and Kiwanis clubs and SMAHC, who make these experiences possible in part due to grants and donations. We wouldn’t be the strong club we are today without your generosity and support. Your kindness does not go unnoticed; in fact there are many wonderful volunteers in our community who are great role models for our kids. Together we make Worthington a great place to live!