2017-2018 Collegiate Essay Winners Showcase

The Virginia Outdoor Writers Association (VOWA) is very proud of our 2017-2018 collegiate winners who typify both scholarship and love of the outdoors. These outstanding young people, along with all the fine students who entered our contest, are our future communicators and stewards for our precious outdoors. We are proud of them all!

We are delighted to present this year’s winners with their essays linked to their essay title with their name. Read and ENJOY!

VOWA-Dominion Energy
Best Overall Essay  

Allison Young Smith
Lord Fairfax Community College
“Finding Perspective in the Gorge”

Allison is a student at Lord Fairfax Community College with the goal of entering  the Shenandoah University’s combined Master’s of Public Health/Physician Assistant program.  She is currently completing her final Physician Assistant prerequisite course, Anatomy and Physiology II under the professorship of long time VOWA member Ann Simpson.

In addition to being a committed student, Allison is “married, a fitness fanatic (reformed Cross Fitter), mother of two teenagers, Rhodes, 19, and Lillian, 16 and preferred person to Maggie, our Spanish Water dog.”  She tells us that “when all of these demands and relationships collide at once, I can think of nowhere I’d rather be than, alone, at the gorge where no phones ring and only the most adventurous can find me.”

The judges were impressed with Allison’s essay being “clear, compelling, and concise!” Congratulations Allison! Keep writing about the outdoors in your future plans, you do it so very well.

VOWA-Dominion Energy
Best Overall Essay Runner-Up

Levi Helm
University of Virginia

Levi is a 4th year student at the University of Virginia. In his own lovely words Levi tells us “I was born and raised on a small farm in Craig County, a rural county replete with natural beauty. Tucked in Virginia’s Western Highlands of Virginia, I grew up listening to the sounds of the hills around me. The music of these wild places has shaped the person I am today. A passion for the natural world led me to UVA  where I am in my final year studying Environmental Science and Anthropology. I plan on attending grad school to continue my studies in human-ecosystem interaction.”

Outstanding essay Levi!  Levi was also a winner last year with his Best Overall Essay “Visitors.” We are most proud to have you as a return winner. Your growth, passion about the environment, and stirring  words are all truly inspiring!  Thank you!

VOWA-Cooperative Living Magazine
Best Virginia Specific Essay

Kari L. Bowers
Lord Fairfax Community College
“Off the Beaten Path”

A sophomore at Lord Fairfax Community College, Kali is  pursuing a degree in Health Information Management as well as a certificate in Medical Billing and Coding.

Kali grew up on a farm in Fort Valley VA,  a very small community in Shenandoah County nestled into the mountains between Woodstock and Luray. “There are no stoplights, we have a post office, fire department, small country store and a community center. The closest grocery store is about 25-30 minutes away. I still live in Fort Valley just a couple miles down the road from my family’s farm. The place I call home has largely shaped me into the person I am today. As a child, I spent most of my time exploring the farm, catching minnows in the creek, climbing the hay loft, and riding on the tractors with my grandfather. I also spent a great deal of time hunting with my uncle and then eventually started hunting by myself.” Her winning essay describes the family farm in intimate detail, creating an excellent sense of place.

Kali also tells us that she has a passion for helping others and enjoys being involved in the community. “I am a volunteer firefighter with the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Company and Fort Valley Volunteer Fire Department. I am an active member of my church where I am a youth leader and serve on the Mission and Witness Commission.”

Keep writing about our wonderful Virginia outdoors in your plans Kali. You are talented! In addition to a $100 cash prize, Kali’s work will be featured in a coming issue of Cooperative Living magazine. Congratulations Kali!

This special award for the Best Essay Relating specifically to the Virginia outdoors is provided by Cooperative Living magazine which is published by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives (VMDAEC).

Awards Ceremony & Acknowledgements

Prizes were presented to the winners and their guests during the 2018 Annual Meeting held March 24, 2018 at the DoubleTree Hotel, Charlottesville, VA. We thank Dominion Energy for a grant that not only supported our running of the VOWA Collegiate Contests, but also played a big part in enabling VOWA to offer a wonderful celebratory and informative Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon to our members and award winners from our Collegiate, High School, and Excellence-in-Craft Contests.

A special thanks to all the folks at Cooperative Living magazine for providing the special award for the Best Virginia Specific essay.

We thank Bill Sherrod and Richard Johnstone of Cooperative Living magazine, Davida Carnahan, Gregory Fuhs, and Lesley Elser of the Bureau of Land Management, and VOWA’s Amanda Creasey for their time, patience, and expertise in judging our contest.

This year’s Collegiate competitions were chaired by Amanda Creasey with the help of VOWA’s Executive Director Matt Schwartz. We thank them both sincerely for all their efforts in putting together a wonderful competition.