Essay by Faith Wong

Faith Wong of Cypress won the $600 Diana Mossip Memorial Scholarship.

I like to tell my friends I came out of the womb talking about marine biology. In reality, my interest in marine biology began when I was eight years old, choosing an animal for my first research project. The whale shark had me enamored with marine biology. Even after the project finished, I couldn’t get enough of reading about dermal denticles, lateral lines, and ampullae of Lorenzini. This spiraled into an interest in the entire ocean. For the rest of elementary school, I would come home and create Google Slides, delving into the science behind different phyla. I carefully crafted slides for the endless information, as if such awe-inspiring knowledge deserved beautiful visual representation. I would come home from school and turn on David Attenborough’s Blue Planet, trying to remember every fact. By the time I was in seventh grade, I began volunteering at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

I have participated in several different programs at the Aquarium of the Pacific (AoP) for the past five years. I began as a Junior Exhibit Guide, a program in which I would be stationed throughout the aquarium with a Mentor to invite guests to discuss marine life. During the pandemic, I joined Teen Science Cafe, where we would work with teen volunteers from the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore to create presentations about different species. We utilized Zoom to present nationwide, educating other teen volunteers. I participated in a sea turtle watch with my team, counting sea turtles for AZA’s Saving Animals from Extinction program. After the pandemic, I joined a program called VolunTEENs. VolunTEENs is a program where students educate guests at the AoP using carts full of interactive biofacts. While I was a VolunTEEN, I produced a painting of bleached corals. My supervisor at the time was so pleased with the work that he brought it to the Natural History Museum, where it accompanied his coral bleaching lecture. Soon after my VolunTEEN session, I became a VolunTEEN Mentor and was promoted to Mentor Lead. As a Mentor and Lead, I had the opportunity to interview applicants, train our students, and run the program for many sessions of students. On routine days, I would teach teams of about 20 students. I gave speeches at our program-wide events, which included up to 120 students and their families. Most recently, I have joined the AoP’s Education Volunteers. As an Education Volunteer, I am stationed at touch pools, using a microphone to speak to guests. One of the most rewarding moments as an Education Volunteer was when a woman came up to me and told me she was disappointed she hadn’t come earlier so she could have heard the beginning of my presentation. She thanked me for the presentation and told me she was shocked at how amazing our animals are.

My passion for the ocean has made me determined to become a marine biologist. I hope to study the animals I have fallen in love with so we can better understand and protect them. I am confident that my background in science interpretation, public speaking, and marine knowledge will bring me success. I plan to further this goal by majoring in marine biology. I am devoted to learning about marine life and continuing to make a difference through disseminating information about the ocean.


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