Lemont High School Student Headed to Washington D.C. for Environmental Youth Summit
Rachel Karpiesiuk, 16, will join 250 students from all over the country to study environmental science and conservation at George Mason University's 2012 Youth Summit on the Environment.
Karpiesiuk, 16, was one of just 250 students across the country chosen as National Youth Delegates to the summit, scheduled for June 24-29. The program provides rising juniors and seniors the opportunity to participate in educational programs in environmental science and conservation at GMU's state-of-the-art campus in Fairfax, VA.
Students will be taught by prominent researchers and environmental professionals, and will attend events at the Smithsonian National Zoo, National Geographic and the U.S. Capitol.
"It's a really amazing opportunity for me to learn from experts and spend time with other kids who are interested in science," Karpiesiuk said. "Plus, I've never been to Washington D.C., so I can't wait to go."
National Youth Delegates are nominated by educators or summit alumni, according to the program's website. Students are chosen "based on strong academic performance, a demonstrated interest in conservation and the environment, and the ability to be exceptional representatives for their states and high schools."
"I didn't know anyone had nominated me until I received the letter that said I was accepted," Karpiesiuk said. "I'm grateful I was even considered, so to actually be able to go is awesome."
Karpiesiuk, who hopes to study zoology or veterinary science in college, has been part of Brookfield Zoo's Youth Volunteer Corps since summer 2009. She spent three years on the Interpretive Track, learning about animals and their environments, and using games and crafts to educate zoo guests.
"When I started, I was just looking to get more experience and get my name in the field," she said. "I love animals, so I've loved the program and being able to volunteer."
This year, Karpiesiuk will begin the Science Track, a two-year program that will allow her to learn about animal care, conservation and exhibit design. In addition to receiving behind-the-scene tours of exhibits, she will also be assigned a zoo mentor to collaborate on a focused research project.
Karpiesiuk hopes to one day become a zoo vet, or possibly open a veterinary clinic with some of her friends.
"There's a group of us who are interested in animals, so we were talking about opening up our own clinic that would be part vet, part shelter," she said. "
When she travels to Washington D.C. this summer, Karpiesiuk hopes to build on her experiences and gain knowledge on less familiar subjects.
"I'm excited to talk about the environment and climate change, since it's something I'm still learning about and forming my opinions on," she said. "I think the summit will definitely be an eye-opener for me."