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FoGP Scholarship Awardees are the Future of Environmentalism

CATEGORY: In the News |
On Jul 16, 2023

FoGP Diversity Scholarships were established in 2021 and are awarded to students
who demonstrate academic excellence and a desire to become environmental stewards.


Earlier this spring, Friends of Griffith Park announced the recipients of the FoGP Diversity Scholarships choosing three students of color who attend the North Hollywood High School Zoo Magnet School (known as the Zoo Magnet) located on the grounds of Griffith Park. Congratulations to Jet Benitez, Juliette Dalicano and Geraldine Perez!

In addition, FoGP created a Continuing Education Scholarship to a previous scholarship awardee; this year the scholarship goes to Emily Reyna as she continues her education at UCLA.

The FoGP Diversity Scholarships were established in 2021 and are awarded to students who demonstrate academic excellence and a desire to become environmental stewards. The money can be used to pay for various educational expenses.

Their student essays reflect the depth of their determination and dedication along with their intellectual prowess.

Here are just a few paragraphs from each awardee.

“I’ve removed trash from my community since I was five and believed consumers were empowered to make changes with reusable bags, cleanups and metal straws. My world was transformed in my junior year when I spent over 100 hours caring for the animals in our school’s agriculture area during the pandemic closure. When school reopened, our donkey, Jenny, struggled to eat and stand. Despite our efforts, she died. Her necropsy revealed a blockage caused by an indigestible plastic wrapper. I knew that plastic impacted wildlife, but this
experience made it personal.

I’ve attended Algalita’s Innovation Youth Forum and presented at their International Youth Summit because of my efforts to reduce plastics in LAUSD’s prepackaged meals. My work with Algalita opened my eyes to systemic plastic pollution embedded in global economies, institutions, and industry. They are the biggest contributors to pollution, but are not held accountable. Combating plastic has been a labor of love that has spanned most of my life, but the battle is just beginning. I plan to study Environmental Science: so that I can continue to be part of the plastic solution as a field biologist, restoration ecologist, or director of sustainability.”

~Jet Benitez, UC Davis

“My interest in biology was shaped by my time as a biomedical research intern at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles: by assisting with cutting edge research investigating the mechanisms of injury in the chronic kidney disease membranous nephropathy. I became aware of the ethics and procedures of using animal models. A love for helping people through research came with understanding how animals further it. I’ve always been in awe of the inspiring diversity of wildlife and wanted to share with others. In my science electives I’ve enjoyed the introduction of each concept and the thrill of understanding as I connect the dots to the overall picture. My engagement in Zoology resulted [in my] Avian/Hoofstock Docent Specialist Program and Animal Husbandry Internship, allowing me to engage with visitors and animal care. As a college student I’d like to gain more knowledge in biology research and animal biology so that in my career I may bridge a gap between animals and human researchers, maybe even develop new ethical practices or technology that ensures care for both groups.”

~Juliette Dalicano, UC Davis

“Directly interacting with the critically endangered Peninsular Pronghorn at the L.A. Zoo has allowed me to explore discussions of conservation with my keeper and even my peers. Conversing about the numbers left in the wild and both the negative and positive impacts humans can have on not only the pronghorn but other animals has extended my interest in the natural world that relies on the more positive impacts from humans in order to thrive. Reaching a resolution begins at the root, and in the case of animal conservation, it begins with humans, who can reduce the effects of already existing issues affecting the natural world. Animal conservation cannot be fixed instantaneously, but I believe that in furthering my education at a university and studying animals and science, I’d have the opportunity to have my voice heard and therefore aid in efforts in conservation and advocating for the protection of animals from the disastrous effects of humans like myself and ultimately reach sustainable ways of living without contributing to the demise of various species of animals.”

~Geraldine Perez, UC Santa Barbara

“As I reflect on the past year, I am so grateful to have had the privilege of creating so many fond memories and accomplishing things I have always dreamed of. During this past year, I was accepted into college, participated in senior activities, recognized as a valedictorian, traveled for free, and began my first job. However, my greatest reward has been the amazing relationships I have created with the people around me. I always strive to do well in school so I often asked my teachers in middle school and high school for help. These tutoring sessions often turned into conversations, which created bonds between us. Whether it was a simple hello as I passed by their classroom or a “hello” email, I am very grateful for my relationships with them.”

~Emily Reyna, UCLA

~Anna Josenhans, FoGP board member

Photo: FoGP’s Miguel Ordenaña presents each student with their scholarship award at the N. Hollywood High graduation ceremony. It was thrilling to see the number of families in attendance at this event, and congratulations to all grads!



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