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Son of late Utah Rep. Bill Orton honored for work with impoverished youth in Southeastern Utah

Published: Friday, Jan. 18 2013 12:30 p.m. MST

Chemisty Day included making clay volcanoes and Silly Putty from glue and borax.

On Awards Day, everyone watched Mentos and soda fountain contests.

Orton says Camp Einstein is the only summer enrichment program of any kind in Montezuma Creek.

"Things we take for granted in Salt Lake — like summer programs, grocery stores, banks, clothing stores, etc. — don't exist there," Orton said. "We have to drive 40 minutes one way to Blanding to find a store or an hour one way to Colorado to find basic supplies for the camp. There are so few resources and opportunities available, but the kids are brilliant, cooperative and eager to learn.

"I would like to see Camp Einstein grow to accommodate as many as 100 students, even including middle school students and teaching them high school-level science separately from the elementary school students. However, we would need many more volunteers in order to make a large camp successful. We would also need to raise additional funds to handle a larger group."

It costs about $2,500 each year to host the camp, which costs participants nothing.

Orton's basic understanding of poverty, need and potential has changed because of his efforts.

"I didn't even know anyone who was Navajo before I arrived in Montezuma Creek. Working in Montezuma Creek has completely changed the way I view the roles that poverty, opportunity and access play in the success of both individuals and communities.

"I took enrichment opportunities and access to everything from educational information to healthy food to running water for granted.

"Changing minds about what is possible has to start somewhere, and I know that I was meant to be working with parents and teachers in Montezuma Creek to do just that," he said.

Patricia Benally, a teacher at San Juan Elementary School who nominated Orton for the Barron award, said she'd love to see the program go forward.

"The kids just love it. I commend him for it. Most of our kids are not exposed to hands-on science," she said. "I'm hoping he can do more of it."

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@desnews.com

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