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They say that 'youth will be served' but in this case, conservation-minded students are being rewarded for their dedication to service instead. Two students from Riverside-Brookfield High School, Rebecca Black and Sheela Turbek, received the first Chicago Zoological Society and Riverside-Brookfield High School Scholarship for Community Conservation Leaders. The two $1000 awards were funded generously by Comcast as part of their pursuit to recognize young leaders in local communities. This particular award was created for graduating seniors of Riverside-Brookfield High School who have taken part in one of two conservation leadership programs in partnership with the Chicago Zoological Society: the School of Environmental Education (SEE Team) and the Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC).

Debra Kutska, Brookfield Zoo’s Conservation Leadership Program Supervisor said, “Both Rebecca and Sheela are such remarkable young women. They have clearly spent their high school years serving as role models for their peers and communities through opportunities provided at Riverside-Brookfield High School and the Chicago Zoological Society as well as a myriad of other respectable organizations.

Rebecca Black participated in the SEE Team at RBHS during her freshman year. At Brookfield Zoo, she worked with a group of other freshman students to explore environmental sciences and ecology through their regular high school courses. Rebecca also participated in several environmental stewardship trips, was a member of the RBHS Eco Club, Science Club, National Honor Society and long term participant in Snowball, Venturing and Girl Scouts. Rebecca will be attending Augustana College in the fall and majoring in Chemistry. She hopes to be a teacher in the future.

Sheela Turbek is a former YVC member at Brookfield Zoo in both the Interpretive and Science Tracks. She was a National Honor Society member, Illinois State Scholar and has received a Sheriff's Youth Medal of Honor. At RBHS, Sheela was a long term participant and corresponding secretary for Ecology Club and a Biology Department Lab aide. Outside of school, Sheela assisted with Habitat for Humanity and regularly attended the Veterinary Lecture Series through University of Illinois as well as the CZS lecture series. Sheela will be attending Bowdoin College in Maine this fall and pursuing a career in field biology.

“Their passion for the environment, education and social needs in their local and global communities is admirable and we appreciate Comcast taking notice of our young leaders by providing this generous award,” Kutska added.

The scholarship presentation ceremony was held at Brookfield Zoo on June 23rd at the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit and was attended by numerous CZS staff including Dr. Stuart Strahl, CEO and President of the Chicago Zoological Society. Other attendees included Comcast staff members Maria Castro, Community Affairs Manager, and Yohan Fernando, Government Affairs Manager, plus RBHS SEE-Team Teacher Jame Holt and the President of Riverside, Michael Gorman.