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Students Hone Writing Skills At Two Week Summer Camp
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Working with a small group of students, teacher Nicole Harp gets ready to listen to the stories they are working on during a session of Great Valley Writing Camp on Thursday, June 20.

With more than 50 campers involved, from students to coaches, this year’s edition of the Great Valley Writing Camp was the largest one since the inaugural camp a few years back. Coordinator Sally Hale said 51 people took part this year and recently completed a two-week session, with the camp hosted on the campus of Dent Elementary School in Escalon.

“It was fun last year and I liked learning about a lot of things,” said Olivia VandePol, 10, a returning camper.

Scattered around the Dent campus, there were three different classes of young writers, basically divided up into age/grade level groups, with the camp open to those in kindergarten through seventh grade.

Eighth grade students to seniors could come on board as helpers, working primarily with the computers and websites to get student work compiled and ready for uploading.

Thursday, the students were busy on their final drafts of stories to publish for this year’s camp. Work from all past years is also still available on the website.

Teacher Nicole Harp said she has enjoyed going on the site and seeing the progression of her own children’s writing since they started attending the summer series.

“I started five years ago as a student,” said Maya Oliveros of Modesto, who now comes back to serve as a student helper.

Her first year, she attended the camp in Manteca, then went to Ripon and has enjoyed spending the past few years as a coach at Escalon, mentoring the younger writers.

“It’s mainly troubleshooting,” she added of her work with the Weebly website where she helps get student work together. “I really enjoy learning and being challenged.”

Oliveros will be a junior at Enochs High School in the fall.

Hale said she was thrilled with the turnout this year and also with what she has seen from the young writers.

“They love it,” she said. “It’s really about finding their voice and finding their confidence.”

The two-week camp ran three hours each day, five days a week and teachers leading the sessions received CSU credit for their efforts.

Along with the writing exercises, students had a chance to take a seat in the ‘author’s chair’ and share their story with classmates and all had a chance to see each other’s work, as well as present their stories to family and friends that came in for an ‘open house’ on June 21, the final day.

Stories and more information can be found at

Past years can also be accessed by using the same address but changing the year, back to 2018, 2017, etc.

Also helping out was West High School graphic design, art and yearbook teacher Leslie McCoy, who said she especially enjoys seeing the students’ reaction when their work is “published”.

“It’s really fun,” she said.

Escalon teachers Nicole Harp and Cassie Gregory were both involved this year, leading groups of students.

One small group that Harp met with on Thursday were busy working on stories, including Spencer Bryant writing about a trip he was planning to take to his grandmother’s house, Hanna Blevins writing out her love of rainbows and Cole Dugo detailing the story of a boy thrown into space by a tornado.

All in all, officials noted, the 2019 camp was classified as a success.

“The philosophy is just helping them find a love for the written word,” Hale said.

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Students, assistants and teachers from the Great Valley Writing Camp pose in their camp T-shirts on the final day of the camp, June 21.