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Plainfield South High School grad earns Chicago zoological society scholarship

  New Plainfield South High School Graduate Summer Smentek recently received a 2021 Chicago Zoological Society’s Women’s Board Scholarship for Environmental Studies.

Smentek applied for the scholarship after spending four years in the King Conservation Scholars Program sponsored by the Zoological Society at Brookfield Zoo.

“I can’t think of a time that I wasn’t interested in wildlife and protecting it,” Smentek said.

Each year the Women’s Board gives up to four scholarships to qualified King Conservation Scholars.

Smentek interpreted Brookfield Zoo exhibits to guests, attended science workshops to teach the public about conservation needs, and helped with special projects such as collecting data for the Mexican Grey Wolf Species Survival Plan, as a King Scholar.

The zoological society scholarship and King Scholar experience are important to her because they are directly connected to her career aspirations, she said.

“I’m already getting a taste of what I want to do because I was in the scholar program,” Smentek said.

Smentek’s parents encouraged her love of the earth and animals by going to zoos, museums, and seeking out books or movies about wildlife, she said.

Smentek adds the $2,500 scholarship to the long list of honors and scholarships she has earned, including attending Harvard this fall as a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar.

She has completed several conservation-related summer programs including at Purdue University and the University of California, Santa Barbara.

She spent four weeks in Africa with the National Geographic Student Expedition where she studied animal conservation with scientists.


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