Carmel Valley student wins competitive scholarship contest

By Karen Billing

For the second consecutive year, a student from Canyon Crest Academy won first place in the STOP2011 Scholarship Contest. In an extremely competitive race with students from all over San Diego County, CCA senior Jack Conway beat out all entrants, earning a college scholarship of at least $48,000.

STOP2011 stands for Stop Taxing Our Pupils and is a project of the Heartland Coalition. The organization’s goal is to educate the public about “massive deficits and crippling debt” that will be the country’s biggest problem in the future.

The $48,000 scholarship is the equivalent of each American’s share of the debt as of 2011.

The contest was made up of four rounds, two written and two oral. By November last year, students had to write a 1,000-word essay on “Why the national debt matters to young people” in the form of a letter to President Barack Obama, Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The top 25 students moved on to round two in January where they had to write a letter to a news publication in response to an article about the national debt or deficits. The top 10 students moved on to a speech contest in April, and then the top five moved on to the fourth and final round, a debate on debts and deficits in May, where they assumed the roles of a San Diego Congressional delegation.

At the start of the competition, Jack said he hadn’t entirely formulated his opinion on the deficit and how to approach it, and even now he thinks there are many ways to confront the issue.

“The main thing I learned from this competition is that neither party, Democratic or Republican, have it entirely righ — or entirely wrong, luckily — when it comes to reducing our national debt,” Jack said. “The struggle with the debt really comes down to this question: How can we reduce our debt while still growing our economy? The answer lies in a balance of ideas and while others may feel differently than I do, my personal views are that we must lower our military spending; work on gradually reforming Social Security and Medicare to each be more sustainable; spend more efficiently when it comes to healthcare; and while this may not directly lessen our deficit, keep up our spending on education, science and technology.”

In addition to Jack, Torrey Pines High School’s David Greif was among the top five finalists.

“The others I competed with were really something else,” Jack said. “With the ideas they presented, I am confident that our generation will be able to take on the national debt and continue to make the United States a great country to live in.”

Jack credits his parents, Megumi Michael and Patrick Conway, and his school, Canyon Crest Academy, for creating environments where he could openly discuss ideas and formulate his own opinions and beliefs.

Jack will attend Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, in the fall.

A 5K walk will be held on Saturday, Aug. 3, at Liberty Station to help raise funds for STOP2011 scholarships. To learn more, visit