By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post
“What I did on my summer vacation” appears certain to take on an interesting—and in a way, wild--twist for a Clearing teenager this year.
Madison Stremplewski has been accepted into the King
|Madison Stremplewski with a Brookfield Zoo wallaby.|
The Chicago Zoological Society’s Teen Conservation Leadership Conference, part of the Chicago Zoological Society's King Conservation Science Scholars program, provides an opportunity for teens ages 14 to 19 to learn about careers that will connect them with wildlife and nature.
It takes place July 11-12 at the Illinois Institute of Technology and at Brookfield Zoo on July 13.
“I really like living by animals,” Madison said. That includes Gracie, a year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback dog. She shares Gracie with her sister Ava, 10, and brother, Cole, 3.
“I’ll be working with animals in the future, so this is pretty cool,” she said. “I’m honestly really excited to start.”
Madison, who turns 14 next month, went through a competitive process to be admitted to the program—including an application, letters of recommendation and getting through an interview.
“We were so happy, so excited when we learned Madison
was accepted into the program,” said Jennifer Stremplewski, Madison’s mom. “We were worried because it is such a competitive program.”
Madison found out she was accepted into the program by doing something all kids her age do, looking at her cell phone.
“I knew two other kids who applied and they found out they were accepted a couple of weeks ago,” she said. “When I looked at my phone and saw the message, I thought, ‘Oh, wait. I got in.’ I was pretty excited.”
Later in July, Madison will begin a permanent schedule at Brookfield Zoo. She hopes to complete at least 300 volunteer hours there in a year, far more than the 120 required.
“I’m really interested in the program. The more I do, the more I will get out of it, the more I will learn,” Madison said.
While 300 hours sounds like a lot of volunteer time, Madison said she believes she can accomplish her goal-even if she is starting as a freshman at Marist High School in the fall.
“I will try to do 60 hours over the summer and when I get into high school, I will work on the weekends. I will prioritize-homework and zoo. It really shouldn’t be that bad,” Madison said.
Part of the scholars program requires Madison to talk to zoo guests, children and adults, about the various animals in the exhibits. Her mom thinks this educational aspect of the program will appeal to Madison.
“She likes the educational piece, the teaching component. She loves working with children,” Jennifer Stremplewski said.
Like many people, Madison isn’t comfortable with public speaking. Yet, the educational piece of the volunteer work will have her talking often to mixed group of people.
“My public speaking skills aren’t great. I’m hoping I become a better speaker. Talking to people about different topics will hopefully make me a more confident speaker, “ Madison said.
Opportunities are plenty for Madison and other scholars. She plans on volunteering at the zoo throughout her high school career. When she turns 16, she can submit research she has done to apply for paid positions offered only to the scholars.
Both Madison and Jennifer acknowledge they appreciate the college readiness class offered by the program.
“It’s hard to say exactly what direction Madison will take with this,” her mother said Tuesday afternoon. “She really likes dolphins, so there’s a chance she may go into marine biology, but who knows? When you’re that young, the future is wide open.”
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