Essay makes the day

Imagine being in sixth grade and not being able to attend outdoor education camp because of budget cuts.

Now imagine being the student who won the entire sixth-grade class an all-expenses-paid trip to an outdoor camp with an essay written in about 10 minutes about the environment.

That is exactly what 12-year-old Maddison Robbins did for her Marine View Middle School classmates with an essay titled "How Kids Can Help Change Earth." Maddison won her peers a three-day, two-night trip to the Irvine Ranch Outdoor Education Center.

"I got a lot of hugs that day," she said.

Maddison's was one of hundreds of essays submitted around Orange County to the Irvine Ranch Outdoor Education Center's essay contest.

Irvine Ranch Executive Director Joan Horton, who read close to 500 essays, said all the essays from Marine View were outstanding, but Maddison's stood out as beautifully written.

Although Maddison's was her top pick, Horton narrowed the essays down to the top 10 to read to her staff. When Maddison's essay was read, it caused a stir in her employees, she said.

"We all sat there and teared up," she said.

Announcing Maddison had won the contest at school caused a similar reaction, said Principal Roni Ellis. The school broadcast her achievement during the morning announcements, causing a roar in the hallway as students screamed and staff teared up.

The school entered the contest thinking if nothing else, it would give the students a topic to write about, Ellis said. Having a student actually win the grand prize was unbelievable, she said.

Marine View students haven't been to outdoor education camp in two years because of budget cuts, Ellis said. Although the program could have been funded by fundraisers, the school had to use them to cover the curriculum, she said.

The students will go on nature hikes, try zip lining, go swimming, learn about astronomy and take night hikes while away from their parents. The whole trip is education-based, built around the state standards, Horton said.

The idea is for students to leave the camp with outdoor experiences, but also a sense that everything they are learning in school has an application in real life, Horton said.

Maddison said she is excited about the trip, especially staying overnight, but winning has given her something else, too.

A strong reader and writer, Maddison said that she is going to look into writing as a career.

"I think now that I know my writing is good, I'll look into it," she said.

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