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State Honoree

Photo of State Honoree John Wesley Orton

John Wesley Orton


John Wesley Orton, 18, of Salt Lake City, Utah, a senior at Innovations Early College High School, started a weeklong writing and literature summer day camp for kids on Utahs Navajo Reservation after helping his older brother run a similar camp focusing on science and math. When Wesleys brother founded his camp on the reservation in 2011, Wesley worked at the camp as an all-around assistant, logistics and fundraising director and science instructor. I knew that adding a writing/literature camp (my specialties) would improve students academic outcomes, he said.

So two years ago, Wesley negotiated the use of the reservations elementary school building for his Camp Shakespeare, which he envisioned running the week before his brothers camp. To pay for supplies and food for meals, he began designing, making, selling and installing peg rails in homes and offices. That and other fundraisers have raised more than $5,000 to support both free camps. At each camp, young Navajo students are taught by trained middle and high school student volunteers, using lesson plans created by older high school and college students. A couple of elementary school teachers help the students prepare healthy lunches and snacks for the campers. We have served hundreds of students over the past four years, said Wesley. Not only are the camps vital to the community as academic enrichment activities and opportunities to have fresh fruits and vegetables in (campers) diets, he said, but they also provide one of the few opportunities Navajo students have to participate in an organized service activity and gain leadership skills.