Junior ‘Optimists’ give back at John Gray

John Gray Junior Optimist Club students stand with janitors on Optimist Day on Thursday, 6 Feb. - Photo: Patrice Hanson

Members of the Junior Optimist Club at John Gray High School rolled up their sleeves last week to take over some janitorial duties from the school’s custodians as the students showed their appreciation of the cleaning staff’s daily efforts.

Teacher Patrice Hanson, an advisor for the club, said the students also treated the custodial staff to a luncheon and presented appreciation certificates.

“We just wanted to say thanks to show some appreciation for what they’re doing every day, because most times they are overlooked. You see them in corridors, and you don’t even know their names, but there’s an opportunity for us to get to know them a little better and to just show them a little love and appreciation,” Hanson said.

She added the club designated last week as an ‘Optimist Week’ with its 16 student members wanting to show appreciation each morning, leading up to the worldwide celebration of Optimist Day on Thursday, 6 Feb., by going into the canteen and cleaning up for the janitors. Hanson said the students swept floors, cleaned tables and wiped down areas.

“It’s not a big break, but in a sense, they get to see and feel and walk in the shoes of those persons who have to clean up after them and, by extension, share with the other students that ‘Hey, this job really takes some guts’,” Hanson said.

The Junior Optimist Club, which was set up at the school in September last year, is a community service-oriented group, said club advisor and teacher Joy Jordan.

“The club was created with the vision of giving the students of John Gray and, by extension, students in the wider Cayman community, the opportunity to give back to their community through service. We’re very big on service because I think our young people need to understand that life is not just about yourself, but when you give back, it’s fulfilling,” Jordan said.

John Gray requires its students to complete at least 10 hours of community service to graduate and hands out special awards for those exceeding the requirement.

Jordan said the Junior Optimist Club is a student-run group and that she and Hanson, in their advisory roles, are just there to guide and mentor the students.

“Notice our title is just advisor. We support and mentor, but it’s for our students to develop leadership skills and, in so doing, giving back to the community in a positive manner,” Jordan said.

Hanson noted that Optimist Day is a culmination of what all the club members do in a year, and the students wanted to treat John Gray’s seven custodians.

“Sometimes we see them around cleaning up after us and they’re not given that level of attention and recognition. We were just happy that we got that opportunity to spread that bit of optimism and positivity and, if I might add, it was greatly appreciated by these honourees, by the staff,” Jordan said.

The club is supported by the adult Optimist Club of George Town and is open to John Gray students between the ages of 10 and 17. Jordan said she hopes more junior clubs can be established in other schools.

John Gray’s club has already helped at community initiatives like the Cayman Islands Cancer Society’s Stride Against Cancer as well as volunteered at The Pines Retirement Home.

“We want to bring some publicity to the fact that the club exists, and we have been making a contribution, not just in the school community, but in the wider community,” she said.

“We don’t want to keep it a secret, and we’re hoping that eventually we will have other such clubs in the other schools.”

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