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 Camp Scholarships for Outstanding Essays

More than a dozen San Diego County school children will be attending 6th Grade Camp this school year at no cost thanks to their writing skills.

Fifteen were named winners in the Outdoor Education Scholarship Contest held by the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE). The contest is funded by the William E. Van Arsdale Trust. The scholarship contest, which has been an Outdoor Education tradition for 27 years, is intended to carry on the legacy of William E. Van Arsdale, past director of SDCOE's Outdoor Education program.

Students whose essays were selected as winners receive full tuition to 6th Grade Camp at Cuyamaca Outdoor School and a rock paperweight made at COS for their teachers.

The contest is open to 4th- and 5th-grade students at schools around the county. Students have 45 minutes to write an essay of up to three pages, and this year’s prompt included questions reflecting on the importance of outdoor education and 70 years of 6th Grade Camp. More than 100 submissions were received this year.

Jonathan Zoehrer, a 5th-grade teacher at Hill Creek School in Santee, has been doing the essay contest with his students for about seven years. He was a first-time winner this year for his student, Jessica Wilson.

“I went through the camp and think it’s a fantastic opportunity to get them outdoors and off the computer,” Zoehrer said.

Outdoor Education Senior Director Tina Chin encourages these talented writers to pay it forward in the spirit of William Van Arsdale.

“Bill Van Arsdale set up an endowment to pay for 15 students to go to camp every year forever,” Chin said. “Fifteen scholarships equals about $5,000. What kind of person pays it forward to people he’s never met? I challenge campers to pay it forward. How will you do it?”

These campers can get their first look at Cuyamaca Outdoor School during the annual open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 24. It's an opportunity for future campers and parents to tour the camp, and for alumni and supporters to visit.

Here are the 2016 Outdoor Education Scholarship Contest winners, with their schools and teachers:
· Justin Nguyen, Stone Ranch Elementary, 4S Ranch, Poway Unified, Mrs. Jin Hong
· Isaiah DeCuba, Aviara Oaks Elementary, Carlsbad Unified, Mrs. Sally O’Donnell
· Isabel Foust, Arroyo Vista Charter School, Chula Vista Elementary School District, Mrs. Corinne Spinrod
· Leilani Umaña, Halecrest Elementary, Chula Vista Elementary School District, Mrs. Daniella Shaw
· Katheryn Robinson, Flora Vista Elementary, Encinitas Union School District, Mr. Ryan Harper
· Teà Wagstaff, Flora Vista Elementary, Encinitas Union School District, Mrs. Kami Cottrell
· Alysa Guise, Foussat Elementary, Oceanside Unified School District, Mrs. Kelli Mocny
· Piper Lidstad, Stone Ranch Elementary, Poway Unified School District, Mr. Patrick Keough
· Noah Pearl, Sunset Hills Elementary, Poway Unified School District, Mrs. Deborah Kraus
· Tara Sotoudeh, Park Village Elementary, Poway Unified School District, Mr. Brian Lasho
· Breeze Czapinski, Hanson Elementary, Ramona Unified School District, Mrs. Cory Gilbreath
· Jessica Wilson, Hill Creek Elementary, Santee School District, Mr. Jonathan Zoehrer
· Kiana Hachney, Central Elementary, South Bay Union School District, Mr. Gabriela De La Torre
· Kyle Kim, Solana Ranch Elementary, Solana Beach School District, Mrs. Nora Guseman
· Evan Zhong, Solana Ranch Elementary, Solana Beach School District, Ms. Ellen Leventhal

Read their essays in full here.