by KELLEY GUSICH | photo by Soul of Photography

Young Philanthropist

student_vass4Encinitas second grader Van Vass has already become an enthusiastic philanthropist and volunteer. The seven-year-old has been searching for ways to shower kindness on others for years. Back when the Vass family lived in West Virginia, Van collected donations to assist homeless veterans. Now that they live in Encinitas, Van’s list of ways to help is growing.

He collects donations for children and seniors with cancer as a way to honor friends and family members who have fought the disease. When asked how it makes him feel to make the donations, “It felt really good,” he shared. “I got to meet a couple of people getting the items.”

His desire to help doesn’t end with collecting donations. He and his little sister are in a group called Kids for Peace where their mission is to do kind things in their community. Van hates litter, so he and the family do a lot of clean-ups. “I do one for my sister’s birthday gift every year,” said Van. “I choose somewhere she goes.” It’s not surprising to know Van takes inspiration from his family. “My daddy inspires me to be my best and never give up,” he confided.


He loves bugs, dinosaurs, sea creatures, and wants to be a paleontologist.

student_vass5Van’s life is not completely about community service, though. His favorite school subject is science, because he likes learning about nature and getting to do experiments. He loves bugs, dinosaurs, sea creatures, and wants to be a paleontologist. “My dad and I collect fossils and bones from the lagoons to study.” His interest in paleontology blossomed from the nature walks that he has experienced with his family.

“I take swimming lessons, love running, and just joined the Cub Scouts,” Van explained. He also likes art, specifically drawing, painting, and making animals out of wooden boxes. Encinitas is a great place for Van to live because he loves the beach and spending time at Legoland, which isn’t too far down the road. “We also draw, go hiking, run, swim, and play games.” Van caps off his busy and adventurous life with one more message: “I really like Minecraft.”


Name: Van Vass (7)
School District: Encinitas Union School District
Grade: 2
Parents: Trey and Jaime Vass
Sibling: Emery
Favorite Places in Encinitas: Moonlight Beach, East Village, and my cousin’s house