Congratulations to our 2019-2020 High School Essay Winners!

The Virginia Outdoor Writers Association, VOWA, is pleased to present the winners of our 2019-2020 High School Essay Competition.  These winners typify both scholarship and love of the outdoors.  Due to the Coronavirus pandemic we did not get to celebrate with these special young people at our Annual Meeting. VOWA offers sincere congratulations to the winners and celebrates their outstanding work in this showcase.
We are delighted to present this year’s winners, our future communicators and stewards for our precious outdoors, with their essays linked to their essay title. Read and ENJOY!
Two of our essay winners are also winners in our VOWA 2019-20 High School Photography Contest. To view their lovely images visit our High School Photography Showcase HERE.

1st Place Best High School Essay 

Reilly Oare
“Climbing Seneca Rocks”
Fauquier High School & Mountain Vista Governor’s School

Reilly Oare is our 1st Place winner in this year’s VOWA High School Essay Contest, which carries a $300 cash prize. Congratulations! Multi-talented, Reilly’s exquisite photography also earned her a 2nd place prize our photography competition.  A senior at Fauquier High School and Mountain Vista Governor’s School, Reilly tells us that she loves to hike, kayak, play guitar, and most importantly, rock climb! Her after graduation plans include attending a four-year university for environmental or civil engineering.

Outstanding and inspiring essay Reilly, so very deserving of 1st place honors! We are very impressed with your rock climbing skills and all that rock climbing has taught you. Wishing you much success in your engineering studies and please keep writing about and taking photos of our beautiful natural world.

Joey Owings

2nd Place Best High School Essay

Joey Owings
“Writer’s Block and a Storm of Words”
Home School, Madison

Joey Owings, a return entrant and winner in our contest has earned 2nd Place honors and $150 in this year’s VOWA High School Essay Contest. Joey is an 11th grade, home school student from Madison, Virginia. He enjoys hunting, fishing, and anything else in the great outdoors. He also is a strong Christian and is very involved in his local church. He is very grateful to the Virginia Outdoor Writing Association for giving him the opportunity to share his work, and he looks forward to continuing his writing career in the future.

VOWA is very pleased to have this young man as part of our 2019-20 competition and look forward to his entering again next year. You are a talented writer Joey; you so beautifully express your love of adventuring in the outdoors. Keep writing and appreciating the outdoors, you are a fine steward of our precious natural world.

Rachel Anthony

3rd Place Best High School Essay

Rachel Anthony
“The Path of Tomorrow”
Warwick High School, Newport News

Rachel Anthony is our 2019-20 3rd Place winner and takes home a $75 cash prize. Rachel is a 17-year-old senior attending Warwick High School in Newport News, Virginia. She loves to learn and strives to do well in her studies. She enjoys playing soccer, and is learning to play guitar. Expressing her creativity through writing, drawing, and through music is very important to her.

Rachel plans on being a graphic designer in the future, but has also thought of other career options, such as creating her own non-traditional school. She plans to launch her future in the US Air Force.

Rachel’s beautifully written essay tells of important personal growth and the value of the outdoors in that growing and maturing process.  You have had a very special high school experience and we hope that nature will continue to be your friend and support. We wish you well as you move forward on your career path. Keep writing! Congratulations!

Honorable Mention Best High School Essay

Rachel Weghorst 
“Wonder in Yellowstone”
Rappahannock County High School & Mountain Vista Governor’s School

 Rachel Weghorst, an 11th grade student at Rappahannock County High School and Mountain Vista Governor’s School wins an Honorable Mention for her lovely essay about Yellowstone NP. Rachel also took top honors in VOWA High School Photography Contest.  Living in Sperryville, nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains right beside Shenandoah National Park Rachel loves the outdoors.  Rachel is very passionate about running and participates in Cross Country and Track and Field.

Her winning essay “Wonder in Yellowstone” is about her family’s trip to Yellowstone.  Rachel says “Yellowstone is my favorite place on Earth, as it truly captures the essence of nature’s beauty.” Rachel your appreciation for, writing about, and photographing nature’s beauty is awesome. We hope you will continue with your writing and photography, and entering our contests again!


We thank Dominion Energy for a generous grant that supported our running the 2019-20 VOWA Collegiate and High School competitions for writing about and photographing our beautiful outdoors. We at VOWA feel these competitions are so very important because they encourage the future communicators and stewards of our natural world.
This year’s High School Essay Contest was chaired by VOWA President Terry Lewis. He put together an outstanding competition!  We thank Terry, and his talented wife Mary Ann, for also giving their time, patience, and expertise to serve as judges  for the competition.