Diamonds in the rough, Camp Owen youths place first at fair

By Shannon Rapose
Kern Valley Sun

Photo by Shannon Rapose / Kern Valley Sun; Former Erwin Owen High School attendee Derrick Diamond poses with his first place photograph of a peacock that he entered into the Kern County Fair.

Hundreds of youngsters from across Kern County entered a variety of projects to the fair, ranging from culinary skills, building with Legos, painting with watercolors, table decorating, sewing and creative welding, just to name a few. Only a few bright stars took home ribbons and trophies, excitement lighting up their faces as their names were called. Many would not hear their names that night, not because they didn’t win, but because they are minors on probation that attend Erwin Owen High School.

According to their website, “Erwin Owen High School is part of the Camp Owen treatment camp and provides educational and vocational services to youth on probation in a boot camp-like setting.” On average, troubled youth spend about four to six months at Camp Owen and have access to special training programs that include ROP auto shop, forestry work and animal care. They also do many creative projects, some of which they enter into the Kern County Fair. This year, the youth of Camp Owen entered 25 creative projects to the Kern County Fair and 16 of which won first place with many receiving additional ribbons for Best of Show, Best of Division and Best of Class.

Only one young man from Camp Owen, Derrick Diamond, was allowed to attend the award ceremony that night due to the fact that he had been released a few days prior, just in time to celebrate his 18th birthday.
Diamond was born and raised in Bakersfield and is a very well-mannered, soft spoken young man who intends to become a Marine and go to college in the coming months. One would never guess he was just released from a five month stay at the Camp Owen treatment facility. Also, to his surprise, Diamond is a young creative in the making. Two of Diamond’s projects received awards at the fair; one a photograph of a peacock that took first prize, and the other a hand-drawn portrait of a peacock that took second.

When asked why he chose to submit that particular photograph of the peacock, Diamond stated, “To me, it looked like it was kind of posing for me.” Prior to the creative projects at Camp Owen, Diamond mostly enjoyed writing and was a casual photographer, only taking pictures every now and then. When asked if he would continue doing photography after this, with a big smile on his face, Diamond said that it felt good to win and would probably continue, especially since he was getting so much praise from it.

Another representative from Erwin Owen High School was there that night as well. Elissa Beckham, a Career Associate at the school, came to the Harvest Hall at the Kern County Fairgrounds to represent the youths at Camp Owen and to collect their awards for their creative work.

Beckham took great pride in pointing out that the saddle stand made from mailboxes, which had received one of the many first place ribbons, had been made special at her request and took one of the boys three days to complete. Another first place welding project, a scorpion titled “Tank,” was a collaboration of three boys at the camp and took about two months to complete, since they were beginners at the craft and learned new skills as they went along.


Photo by Shannon Rapose / Kern Valley Sun; Camp Owens Career Associate, Elissa Beckham poses with just a few of the projects the youth of Camp Owens submitted to the Kern County Fair.

Another project that Beckham pointed out was the welding project known as “The Band,” made up of figures that looked like they belonged in the Disney movie Robots. Beckham stated that the boy responsible for their creation said he had “never accomplished anything like this,” and was thrilled when he found out his project had placed first in the Kern County Fair. Beckham showed off that the strings of the hand carved guitar could be played as well.

When asked how the boys at Camp Owen felt about their accomplishments in this year’s Kern County Fair, Beckham stated, “They are very proud.” As they should be.

For more information about Erwin Owen High School please visit or call the office at 760-376-2315.