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Merced man called “Father of the Year”

Nelson Ortiz, 43, listens to his daughter, Eliana, speak during the Merced County Father of the Year Essay Awards Banquet on Tuesday in Merced. Ortiz took home the top honors.
Nelson Ortiz, 43, listens to his daughter, Eliana, speak during the Merced County Father of the Year Essay Awards Banquet on Tuesday in Merced. Ortiz took home the top honors. Merced County Office of Education

Two dozen fathers and father figures were honored Tuesday at the 2015 Merced County Father of the Year Essay Awards Banquet at El Capitan High School in Merced.

Nelson Ortiz, 43, of Merced was named Merced County Father of the Year, the contest’s top honor, according to a news release.

His daughter, Eliana, was a fifth grade student at Fremont Elementary School when she wrote the winning essay earlier this year, the release stated.

In its 14th year, the essay contest is open to all kindergarten through 12th-grade students in Merced County. It highlights the special role fathers and father figures play in a child’s life, according to the news release.

State Sen. Anthony Cannella, the honorary chairman for the event, presented the award to Ortiz. Cannella also presented contest founder Paul Lundberg, who is in his final year with the program, with the 12th Senate District’s Man of the Year Award, according to a news release.

Students are asked to write a 300-word essay titled, “What My Father Means To Me.” A team of Merced County volunteers read each essay and choose the top three essays from each grade level. Each father is given the option of writing a response, which may be submitted along with his child’s essay.

More than 13,000 essays have been written in 14 years of the competition and more than 300 fathers have been honored, the release stated. Students can write the essay about their father, stepfather, grandfather or a father-like figure in their lives.

For more information on the annual contest, call the Merced County Office of Education at (209) 381-5910.

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