Congratulations to our 2020-21 High School Essay Winners!

The Virginia Outdoor Writers Association (VOWA) is pleased to present the winners of our 2020-2021 High School Essay Contest. These winners typify both scholarship and love of the outdoors. All of the winners from all of the VOWA contests were announced at our Annual Meeting held Sept. 25, 2021, in Charlottesville. VOWA offers sincere congratulations to the winners and celebrates their outstanding work.
We are delighted to present this year’s high school essay winners, our future communicators and stewards for our precious outdoors. Because of the high quality of this year’s work, the judges were not able to choose just three winners, so you will see four winners in this showcase. Each winning essay is linked to its essay title. Click on the titles, read, and ENJOY!

1st Place Best High School Essay

Theodora Godbold

Theodora Godbold
“A Key to Treasure”
Holy Trinity Home School, Stanardsville

Theodora Godbold, a home-schooled sophomore from Stanardsville, is our first-place winner in this past year’s VOWA High School Essay Contest, which carries a $300 cash prize. Her exquisite essay explores nature and the paths of life.

The sole girl out of eight children, Theodora says that she lives to play soccer, to sing, and to write poetry, songs, and short stories. Favorite pastimes include her daily walk, spending time with her nephews, learning new tunes on the piano, and hanging out with friends. She also enjoys working at her homeschool co-op and helping with various activities at her church. Thanks again for your beautiful essay Theodora!

2nd Place Best High School Essay

Michaela Wells

Michaela Leigh Wells
“Gone Fishin'”
Colonial Heights High School, Colonial Heights

Michaela Leigh Wells, a 16-year-old junior from Colonial Heights High School, is our second-place winner and takes home $150 in prize money. Michaela’s touching essay about going fishing with her grandfather had many of us reaching for our tissues!

Michaela lives with her grandparents and loves enjoying the outdoors with them. She especially enjoys the times she spends with her grandfather, affectionately known as Gege. We are proud to say that she is a student of VOWA board member Amanda Creasey who encourages her students to write about their outdoor experiences. Way to go Michaela and Amanda!

TIE: 3rd Place Best High School Essay

Aleah Litton

Aleah Litton 
“Finding Myself in the Cosmos”
Union High School & A. Linwood Holton Governor’s School, Big Stone Gap

Aleah Litton, a high school junior, tied for third-place in the VOWA high school essay contest with her story about her astronomical explorations of the night sky. Aleah is not only a student at Union High School and the A. Linwood Holton Governor’s School, but takes classes at Mountain Empire Community College (MECC). When she graduates, she will have an advanced high school diploma and an associate’s of arts and science from MECC.

Aleah loves to read, write, hike, and spend time with her family. She would like to further her education at a four-year institution studying neuroscience and physics. We hope she continues exploring the universe with her telescope as well. Congratulations Aleah!

TIE: 3rd Place Best High School Essay

Emmanuel Sampson
“Walking the Snake Trail”

Emmanuel Sampson

Colonial Heights High School, Colonial Heights

Emmanuel Sampson, a junior from Colonial Heights High School and another student of Amanda Creasey’s, finished in a third-place tie in the VOWA high school essay contest. His essay about an unusual encounter with nature while out for a morning jog was enjoyed by all.

Emmanuel has already had an interesting journey in life. “Ever since I came to America as a Nigerian immigrant with my three sisters, I’ve had a knack for writing and an unquenchable desire to learn all I can about the world,” Emmanuel said on his essay entry form. He enjoys reading of all sorts, studying psychology and philosophy, and spending time helping other people. Always eager to polish his writing, Emmanuel said he wanted to enter the upcoming VOWA contest. We look forward to reading about his next adventure outdoors.


We thank Dominion Energy for a generous grant that supported our running of the VOWA Collegiate and High School competitions for youth engaged in photographing and writing about 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 Board Member Terry Lewis. He put together an outstanding competition. We thank Terry and his talented wife Mary Ann for giving of their time, patience, and expertise to serve as judges for the competition.