Saint Xavier High School junior Sam Leist, 16, will soon join 15 other high school students from around the world as he travels to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, to study polar bears during their fall migration and collect field data with scientists.
The Louisville Zoo recently selected Leist to be the Zoo’s ambassador during Polar Bear International’s week-long Polar Bear Leadership Camp. The camp, which was founded in 2004, includes intense field work that exposes students to all sides of the issues facing polar bears and humans in the Churchill region.
Leist, who has been a teen volunteer at the Zoo since 2006 and an active Zoo Youth Board member, said he has always been interested in the conservation of wildlife.
“Last year, I created a presentation at my high school about polar bears and their natural habitat,” Leist said. “During this project I learned of their tragic situation. It is an act of injustice that this species, along with many of Earth’s other wonders, are dying out so rapidly. I believe that any attempt to help inform the general public of this situation should be endorsed.”
Leist, who leaves for Churchill October 2 and returns October 9, said he is excited about this experience of a lifetime.
“I have participated in many outdoor expeditions, and this trip is particularly exciting to me because it reflects the idea of conservation,” Leist said. “I am thrilled to go on this expedition not only because I will be educating myself and others about the environment, but I am going to be having a blast doing it!”
Leist is on the honor roll and principal’s list at Saint Xavier, has been awarded many awards including the Saint Xavier Freshmen Mock Trial Award (2007) and the Louisville Zoo Youth Award (2008). He was also elected into the Order of the Arrow, a Boy Scout Honor Program, in 2006. He likes spending his free time camping, backpacking and sailing.
Once Leist returns home from the Polar Bear Leadership Camp, he will create a forward action plan to help educate his peers and the Louisville community about conservation issues.
“I intend to spread the word of my experiences in environmental conservation as far and wide as possible when I return from Canada,” he said, “and hopefully I will be able to educate others in how they can participate in rescuing our environment.”
This is the second year the Louisville Zoo has sent a teen to Canada to study polar bears during their fall migration and collect field data with scientists. Last year Emily Goldstein from Atherton High School served as the Zoo’s ambassador during Polar Bear International’s week-long Polar Bear Leadership Camp. For more information on Polar Bear International’s week-long Polar Bear Leadership Camp, visit www.polarbearsinternational.org.