Meet The 2017 SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Youth Advisory Council

January 30, 2017

At SeaWorld, we believe that engaging young people as conservation leaders is critical to addressing the challenges facing our environment. We also recognize that in order to develop high impact conservation and education programs to reach youth audiences, we must meaningfully engage young people in helping to shape our work and programs. 

Recognizing the importance of youth leadership to our work, and the expertise young people offer regarding engaging their peers in conservation efforts, in January 2015, we launched the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Youth Advisory Council, uniting an outstanding group of young conservation leaders from across the country with a mission of providing strategic input, recommendations, and guidance from a youth perspective to assist in our work to connect audiences to the natural world and inspire them to care for the environment. In addition to their advisory role, Youth Advisory Council members are tasked with directly developing and leading programs to support our work of inspiring the next generation of conservation leaders. 

In 2016, members played a key role in providing recommendations regarding our marketing and social media efforts, shared feedback to our park teams on incorporating conservation messaging into programs, helped shape the continued expansion and outreach plans for the SeaWorld myActions platform, launched educational efforts tied to our work to raise awareness about Vaquita conservation, represented SeaWorld and the work of the Council through inspiring presentations at national youth conferences, and more!

Through their role, Council members are able to connect and learn from other young leaders with diverse experience and backgrounds in environmental education and conservation, while working alongside professionals in these fields. 

“The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Youth Advisory Council is an important part of our strategic planning process,” states SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment Corporate Curator for Conservation and Education, Bill Street. “The advice, perspective, and energy the Council brings provides our leadership with youthful insight to make our parks more accessible and engaging for the next generations. The Youth Advisory Council also provides a great opportunity for these amazing young adults to grow their leadership skills and potential.” Youth Advisory Council Coordinator, Sean Russell shares that, “Meaningful youth leadership must play a key role in the work of conservation focused organizations. Through the Youth Advisory Council SeaWorld is setting the bar for authentic youth engagement in the fulfillment of our mission and work.” 

We're excited to welcome nine new members to the Council this year, selected from dozens of outstanding applicants from across the United States. These young leaders will join our returning members as they serve a two year term on the Council. Let’s meet the next generation of Conservation Leaders!


Arwen V. 

Hometown: Boise, Idaho

School: Boise State University majoring in Biology with an emphasis in Zoology and a minor in Psychology. 

Last summer Arwen attended nine SeaWorld and Busch Garden summer camps at all of the SeaWorld parks and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. She plans to use her degree to work at a zoological facility in training and taking care of animals that are both terrestrial and aquatic and hopes one day to be a summer camp counselor at either SeaWorld San Diego or San Antonio. 

Arwen is excited to work with and get to know everyone on the SeaWorld Busch Garden Youth Advisory Council. 


Audrey W. 

Hometown: Elm Creek, Nebraska

School: Elm Creek Schools 

Five years ago, Audrey became the youngest official volunteer at Rowe’s Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Center along the Platte River. Her work to help restore the Platte River and to advocate on behalf of the Sandhill Crane has won her recognition in Nebraska and Washington D.C. Audrey has also worked as a volunteer at the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and is currently serving on their Youth Leadership Team. As a member of FFA, Audrey has been promoting the lifesaving benefits of milkweed and conducting research on milkweed’s ability to clean oil contaminated groundwater and to serve as an air bio monitor. Currently, she is working with two fellow FFA classmates to demonstrate precision agriculture irrigation techniques. As with most Midwestern youth, Audrey is also very active in 4-H and recently was recognized by Monsanto and the National 4-H Council for her social media platforms promoting the importance of honeybees. As a world champion appaloosa horse rider and member of the National Appaloosa Youth Association Board, Audrey and horse Rocky, love to travel across the country to compete. Audrey was also among a trio of youth recognized by the Joe Foss Institute and Justice Sandra Day O’Conner for her advocacy work on behalf of Civics Education. 

Audrey is extremely excited to be able to join like minded youth from across the country in promoting the mission and work of SeaWorld. 


Bevyn C.

Hometown: El Dorado Hills, California

School: Sonoma State University, studying Communications and Political Science.

In 2015 and 2016, Bevyn had the opportunity to represent the Youth Advisory Council at the FCCLA National Leadership Conferences in Washington D.C. and San Diego, CA. In her free time, she volunteers at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and is a member of the SSU Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and hopes to pursue a career in politics. 


Bill D. 

Hometown: Groton, Connecticut

School: University of Miami, majoring in Marine Science and Biology with a minor in Chemistry. 

Bill enjoys volunteering for Mystic Aquarium where he has served as an exhibit interpreter, Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) member, penguin husbandry volunteer, and most recently a penguin husbandry intern. Each summer he and his fellow YCC members organized a conference for local teens which had the goal of raising public awareness about ocean conservation. In between conferences, he has participated in numerous beach cleanups, conservation education events, and habitat restorations.

As a SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Youth Advisory Council member, Bill enjoys contributing to conservation on a larger scale with access to the resources necessary to truly make a difference and inspire other youth to take part in conserving our planet. 


Daniel B. 

Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona

School: Home school

From a young age, Daniel had a love for animals. When he was fourteen, he became a ZooTeen volunteer with the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation at the Phoenix Zoo. He started as a Trail Teen, interacting with guests and educating them about conservation issues and animal artifacts. Later, he made time to take on more volunteer positions including Farm Teen, Family Programs Teen, Bird Department Keeper Assistant, and ZooTeen Volunteer Supervisor. All-in-all, he has volunteered over 1,300 hours, become a “Certified Interpretive Guide” through the National Alliance for Interpretation and even created multiple educational stations. 


Eric G.

Hometown: San Antonio, Texas

School: University of Florida, studying Zoology. 

In 2014, Eric was the recipient of the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Environmental Excellence Award for his outstanding service to wildlife. Years of attending SeaWorld’s summer camps and visiting on the weekends, have reinforced Eric’s wildlife aspirations. Eric aspires to be the next ‘Jack Hanna’, showing the world the amazing animals that we share this world with, or to be a head veterinarian at a zoological facility. 

This is Eric’s third and final year on the council, and he cannot wait to make a positive, lasting impact for both the council itself, and the company. 


Hyejoo R.

Hometown: Shoreline, Washington

School: University of Washington, majoring in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and minoring in Marine Biology. 

In high school, Hyejoo served as a Youth Ocean Advocate at the Seattle Aquarium, participating in numerous beach clean ups, tree plantings, policy advocacy, and interacted with aquarium guests to inspire them towards conservation. At the University of Washington, Hyejoo worked as an Aquatic Ecology Laboratory Technician, where she assisted graduate students in their lab and field work. Some examples of what Hyejoo has done are: looking through salmon diets, salmon scale mounting, preparing stable isotopes from the fish, and all-night trawling on Lake Washington to study the migratory forage fish. In the future, Hyejoo hopes to continue in marine research more in the realm of marine mammals, and hopefully integrate that research with conservation. 

All in all, Hyejoo cares greatly about the environment, and is excited to further a movement towards conservation! 


Jesse F.

Hometown: Richmond Hill, Georgia

School: Richmond Hill High School

Jesse’s passion about environmental science is reflected in his extracurricular activities. He was a founding member of the Richmond Hill Field Studies Program (FSP), which researches the local salt marshes and provides monthly environmental monitoring for state databases, and is a founder and leader of the high school extension of the FSP. Jesse also participates in training and research events at MAREX, the marine extension services from the University of Georgia, in Savannah and is certified by the state of Georgia for water testing and is well versed in a wide range of ecological tests. 


John S. 

Hometown: Long Island, New York

School: University of South Florida, studying to major in Integrative Animal Biology and minors in Psychology and biomedical physics

John has been interested in animals, conservation, and the environment since he was young, and has been working to make a difference in the world ever since. Through his attendance at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens career camps and participation on the SeaWorld myActions website, he has not only gained awareness about conservation issues, but increased his passion for animals and habitat conservation. 

John is enjoying his time on the Council and cannot wait to continue making a difference. 


Kaleigh R.

Hometown: South Carolina

School: University of South Florida

Kaleigh is currently living in Tampa, FL and is heavily involved with SeaWorld and Busch Gardens’ summer camps. She started off as a camper in 2009 and became a day camp counselor at Busch Gardens in 2015. During the off seasons, she continued her work at the Animal Care Center as a zoo educator. In the past Kaleigh has participated in beach clean ups and sea turtle conservation efforts. In the future, she hopes to get involved with polar bear conservation as well. When she graduates, her goal is to become an animal care specialist for SeaWorld and Busch Gardens. 

Kaleigh loves getting to learn from others, teaching people about the importance zoos and aquariums play and using her photography to inspire others to care about the animals and to encourage people to be more environmentally friendly.


Madison T.

Hometown: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

School: Stanford University Online High School

Madison aspires to be an exotic/marine animal veterinarian with a focus on conservation of endangered species and has conducted scientific research on the oyster, sea turtle, alligator and pangolin with scientists across the world in pursuit of this goal. Madison has been recognized by NOAA for “Taking the Pulse of the Planet” and was a recipient of the 2016 SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Environmental Excellence Award. 

Madison is constantly expanding the reach of her conservation message by speaking at numerous environmental events and writing conservation blogs.


Maiss M.

Hometown: Falls Church, Virginia

School: J.E.B. Stuart High in Falls Church

Maiss has been interested in environmental and biodiversity conservation for as long as she can remember and hopes to major in these topics during college. Maiss is also passionate about a variety of activities that she participates in including, the Smithsonian’s Youth Engagement through Science program, honor societies, and being the president of her school’s Model United Nations club. 

Overall, Maiss is extremely excited to become a part of the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Youth Advisory Council! 


Makayla H. 

Hometown: Winterville, North Carolina

School: South Central High School.

Within her school, she is a member of National Honor Society (NHS) and she is a Sergeant First Class (SFC) and Platoon Sergeant in JROTC. She is the libero of her high school volleyball team, manager of the wrestling team, and runs for track. In the community, Makayla is a member of the Greenville City Youth Council, Love A Sea Turtle (LAST) Student Advisory Board, libero of a travel volleyball team (ECJVC), and a GenerationOn Kindness Ambassador and JoyMaker. Some interesting information about Makayla is that she is on her seventh year as a LAST Upstream Downstream summer camp counselor, she is scuba certified, a big sister to a three-year-old baby brother, and a USAV Officiator. 


Nora A.

Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

School: Western High School

Nora is currently in her third year of an after-school program called AOW (Aquarium on Wheels) that is a part of the National Aquarium in Baltimore. This year, Nora is a director of the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit in Baltimore. The summit’s focus will be ocean health and what you can do to maintain a healthy ocean. She has also been a part of the Henry Hall Summer Program for 5 years. This coming year will be her sixth year with the program. She has attended both MAYA! and the YOCS Conservation Summit at Yale University and Capitol Hill.


Ryan S. 

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Ryan has always had a great interest in nature and the arts. His love for art began with simple pencil sketches and evolved into a love for painting nature and wildlife. 

Ryan has dedicated himself and his artwork to conservation. His work has been displayed across the U.S. in museums, aquariums, zoos, and other scientific institutions. He has had the opportunity to use his work to assist conservationists and environmental organizations reaching from the landlocked mountains of Colorado, to the sandy shores of the Bahamas. He hopes to continue this work and do all that he can to spread the message of marine conservation through the power of art. 


Samantha D. 

Hometown: New Smyrna Beach, Florida  

School: Daytona State College pursuing her Associates degree. 

Samantha grew up in New Smyrna Beach, FL and was constantly surrounded by marine life. This is where she drew her inspiration and found a passion and has pursued it in various ways. In high school, Samantha worked both on and off campus, at her local Marine Discovery Center, maintaining her own aquatic systems. Samantha plans to continue schooling majoring in marine biology or psychology and aspires to be an animal care specialist for a zoological park, such as SeaWorld or Busch Gardens. 

Samantha enjoys her school, family, and friends and loves working on the Council with such amazing and inspirational peers and advisors. 


Sierra L. 

Hometown: Coppell, Texas

School: University of Texas, studying Economics

Sierra spends her time volunteering for Austin Pets Alive working to treat infected animals and study the effects of the parvovirus. In high school, Sierra was a youth advisor for the Coppell Sustainable Food Organization, and in 2015 she was awarded the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Environmental Excellence Award for her outstanding achievement in local conservation. 

Sierra is excited about the opportunities to expand conservation awareness as part of the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Youth Advisory Council. 


Tessa B. 

Hometown: Gainesville, Florida

School: Gainesville High School

Tessa visited SeaWorld for the first time when she was two-years-old, and has been a passholder ever since. She has attended SeaWorld Orlando 10-12 Career Camp two years and visits the park frequently. 

Tessa plans on attending the University of Central Florida, majoring in biology, and minoring in psychology and hopes to become a marine mammal trainer or be part of a marine animal rescue unit.


Truth M.

Hometown: Rock Hill, New York

School: Home school

For as long as he can remember, Truth has been fascinated by the natural world, and has been an advocate for its protection. In 2011, spurred on by the die off of 93% of New York State’s bat population, Truth founded “Buddies for Bats”, an organization to teach his community about the environmental importance of these unique creatures. Truth is also a writer and activist for the Basha Kill Area Association, an environmental organization devoted to protecting the Basha Kill (one of NY’s largest wetlands). Through the “Nature Watch” program, Truth teaches visitors and locals alike about the diverse wildlife inhabiting the Kill. He is also an active volunteer for the BKAA Water Monitoring taskforce, and a regular participant in the annual wetland cleanup.

Join the SeaWorld Action Team

Read More:


Research Helps Wild Whales  

Meet The 2018 SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Youth Advisory Council


Could Killer Whales Become Extinct – Yes, But There’s Hope!


Recognizing the Next Generation of Conservation Leaders