Three students in the College of Natural Resources and Environment took home prizes for their entries in the annual VOWA (Virginia Outdoor Writers Association)/Dominion Collegiate Undergraduate Writing Contest. 

Entries in the competition, which seeks to encourage youth and young adults to cultivate their creative talents, focused on this year’s theme of a memorable outdoor experience or special interest.

Zoe Carroll of Earlysville, Va., a junior majoring in wildlife science, won first place in the writing contest for her essay “Getting the Bird Flu,” which recounts her volunteer intern experiences working with baby birds at the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center in Boyce, Va.

“I really enjoyed writing an essay on birds for the VOWA writing contest, and it’s icing on the cake that I won first place!” Carroll said. “I’m very excited that I’ve accomplished this. I would love to be a part of wildlife research in the future and continue to write — not just because I love it, but because it would help others to appreciate wildlife.”

Leslie Beard of Laurel, Md., a junior majoring in natural resources conservation, won second place for her entry “To Life, Outside.” Her essay details her introduction to the outdoors through a trip to Lake Tahoe with her aunt, who fostered Beard’s love of nature. 

She dedicated the piece to her aunt, who died from cancer in September 2012.

“I enjoyed writing the piece,” Beard remarked, “and I am glad that others will be able to read about the life-changing experience I had. I hope it will inspire others to spend more time in nature.”

In a new award category relating specifically to Virginia, Whitney Clark of Smithsburg, Md., a senior majoring in natural resources conservation, won the Cooperative Living Magazine Award for her entry “Knowing the Knob.” Her essay, which describes her adventures in the wind and rain to climb McAfee’s Knob along the Appalachian Trail, will be published in Cooperative Living Magazine, a publication of the Virginia, Maryland, & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives.

“I am incredibly honored to receive the first VOWA Cooperative Living Magazine Award,” said Clark. “As someone who loves exploring nature, this contest gave me the chance to share my experiences with others. Hopefully it will inspire people to go and find adventures of their own.”

All three students read their entries at the Virginia Outdoor Writer’s Association joint conference with the Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writer’s Association in Staunton, Va., on March 16. In addition to the publication of the Clark’s essay in Cooperative Living Magazine, the winning entries will be placed on the VOWA website, and selected quality entries will be published in the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ electronic newsletter, The Outdoor Report.

The writing contest and awards presentation were supported by Dominion, which donated cash awards for each of the recipients, as well as Cooperative Living Magazine, the Outdoor Writers Association of America, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Greater Augusta Regional Tourism, the Staunton Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Waynesboro Department of Tourism.

Written by Samantha Huff of Christiansburg, Va., a junior majoring in English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.