John Laurents

Lifetime Achievement Award

The Charlotte Optimist Club

Optimist International North Carolina West District

Questar Capital Corporation

In 2009, John Laurents, serving his fourth term as president of the Charlotte, N.C., Optimist Club, had a vision of a program that would both keep kids from dropping out of school and encourage younger people to become Optimists.

Five years later, his Youth Empowerment Service — the YES initiative — has reached more than 2.5 million teens in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

An Optimist for 46 years, Mr. Laurents of Matthews, N.C., is a registered representative of Questar Capital Corp.

The core of the initiative for at-risk youths is the book, “Success for Teens,” which teaches students time management, goal setting, self-esteem, self-motivation, dream building and how to define a purposeful life. The eight-week program is frequently facilitated by students from college Optimist clubs. The Success Foundation provides the books free of charge.

The YES initiative partners with Sylvan Learning Center, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and Communities in Schools to provide additional services to the kids.

“We have an enormous responsibility and opportunity to bring out the best in our youth,” said Mr. Laurents. “If we don’t, within the next 10 years we’re going to be dealing with millions of kids who don’t have a high school diploma.”