Mekayla Jenkins probably couldn’t have selected a better time to help start an Optimist Club at Northwestern State University.
She hesitated about starting a chapter of the international volunteer organization at NSU last fall when so many things were happening that would have kept many from getting involved in any new project.
“2020 was definitely a year of challenges for me,” said Jenkins. “As a young Black woman, I felt like I was being put through the ringer daily. It was the emotional roller coaster that definitely dimmed that optimistic outlook on life that I always had.”
Jenkins was contacted by then Optimist International District Governor Carolyn Washington about starting a chapter at Northwestern.
“I started to decline her offer because I was drained and I didn’t want to run the ‘happy club’ when I wasn’t feeling so happy,” said Jenkins, a junior communications major and dance minor from Jennings “I brushed her off for a while and eventually the little optimist in me couldn’t deny it anymore. Things were bad but deep down I knew they would get better. I hit rock bottom, and when you hit rock bottom the only direction you can go is up. So I thought, ‘What could it hurt?’”
The club has 30 members and is the first Optimist Club on a college campus in Louisiana. NSU’s club is getting national attention. Jenkins was recently quoted in an article in the Wall Street Journal about Optimist Club efforts to grow its membership.
“Having an Optimist Club is a great way to start connecting around the state, country and the world to start finding resources and contributing resources to making a real impact on the world,” said Jenkins. “Starting a club here is small step.”
Jenkins is very active in campus organizations. She was in the Presidential Leadership Program, served as photo editor of the Current Sauce and has done public relations work as a member of the campus chapter of the NAACP and La Belle Femme. Jenkins is a member of the African-American Caucus and Helping Hands. As a member of the NSU Dance Company, she was cast in “Modern in Motion.” She is a former member of the Demon Dazzlers and the Dance Organization of Students.
“When I was told we were the first college in the state to have a club I was super excited. I had to make it happen,” said Jenkins. “This is more than club now. This a platform with an opportunity to really start influencing positive change and working to form a better community on and off campus. Opportunity was knocking at my door and I wasn’t going to turn it away. This is a legacy, a cycle that would start with me and my charter club and will undoubtedly stand and expand as time progresses.”
Any NSU student is welcome to join the Optimist Club and Jenkins looks forward to growing the membership. She also hopes the club will be able to undertake service projects to benefit the campus and community. The Optimist Club was able to donate to victims of Hurricanes Laura and Delta last fall as its initial project.
Those interested in the Optimist Club can follow it on Instagram @optimistnsula or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/optimistnsula.