Sam's Wildlife Volunteer Experience

My name is Samantha Peña and I am currently a junior at the University of Texas at El Paso studying Environmental Biology with a minor in Chemistry. I’ve worked extremely hard these past two years to obtain my current GPA of a 3.7. I gained an interest in animal conservation when I took Environmental Science in high school. This class opened my mind and enlightened me to so many environmental issues, such as poaching, exploitation, and endangered species. My senior year I started asking myself what could I do to help these defenseless animals? The answer was simple,  become a wildlife veterinarian. While the idea seemed extremely farfetched due to financial struggles, I told myself I would never let finances define my goals in life.
I volunteered at Beach Pet Hospital in Virginia Beach, which later turned into a part-time job. I was 18 and this dream seemed almost impossible. Going into college, I started considering different majors and which could help me meet the requirements for veterinarian school. I found that students usually applied to veterinarian school with a degree in Biology or Biomedical Science, but that just wasn’t what I wanted--I fell in love with Environmental Science. I wanted to study it further and learn about conservation and how I could apply it to make a difference! I knew that some of the prerequisites for veterinarian school wouldn’t be on my degree plan but that just meant I would have to work extra hard. I dedicated my freshman year working at Texas A&M Agrilife Research Center located in El Paso, as a research assistant focusing on soil salinity with ornamental plants. I spent my sophomore year working part time at Biodiversity Collections Department at UTEP, studying, assisting in research dealing with enzyme activity in subartic soils, and being the Treasurer of a student organization called THE GREEN TEAM.
As I gained more experience, I discovered I wanted to focus on exotic animals. So, I started volunteering at the Animal Hospital at the El Paso Zoo, which I’m still currently doing. I won’t lie this past year I have felt exhausted, but I know in the end it will all be worth it! The process to veterinary school is long, stressful and tiring but I never have doubts that this is what I want to do! This past summer I started researching greater opportunities that were more specific to the career I would want in the future.

I found African Conservation Experience(ACE) and knew this experience would not only be unforgettable, but it will give me a competitive edge for applying to veterinary school for Fall 2019. I also discovered that this program will count as my internship for school, which is a requirement to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Overall, I know this is an opputrunity of a life time!

The money I raise will go directly to the conservation and protection of the animals in South Africa, as well as to the veterinarians and staff providing the training for this amazing program. The total cost for 4 weeks of volunteering is $4,830. Adding in $2000 airfare and other expenses, I'm in a bit over my head. I am currently saving money and working hard, but I need all the help I can get!

The African Conservation Experience(ACE) provides an opportunity for me to travel to South Africa and volunteer for a month, assisting veterinarians with wildlife medicine. The program is called The Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Experience, and will include game capture, relocation, tracking, tagging, taking blood, hair, and other samples to document the animals’ health and well-being. Specifically, I would join the day-to-day activities of experienced wildlife veterinarians in the field and clinic. I will work with a range of wildlife species and assist with treating and handling wildlife. I feel that veterinary work is essential to the preservation and protection of rare and endangered species endemic to Africa. 

I love this program because it combines animal medicine with conservation and that has always been one of my goals.I’m going to work diligently every day to raise money for this trip and with your support and help I hope to make this dream come true! Thank you all for supporting me and helping me reach for my dreams! Feel free to message me if you have any questions! I would be happy to answer!

Thank you so much,

I have attatched a link below if you want to check out the website!





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Sam Pena 
El Paso, TX

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