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In 2022, we did not have enough entries to award High School Essay Contest winners, so please enjoy the winning entries from 2021.

2020-21 High School Essay Winners

(Click links to read)


1st Place Best High School Essay

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 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

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”

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.

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