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Staples Sophomore Heads to the Arctic

They say youth is wasted on the young, but that adage doesn't apply to Brian Hershey. Wrapping up his sophomore year at Staples High, the Westport teen has already traveled to over 50 countries. This October 10, he'll add Churchill, Manitoba in Canada to his ever-expanding list of destinations. Brian was recently announced the winner of Fairfield County's Third Annual "Green Teen" Arctic Leadership Camp Competition. Sponsored by Gault Energy and the Polar Bears International (PBI) Alliance, the contest invited area students to write essays about how they would help to save the polar bears and why the cause was important to them. The prize: six days in the Arctic doing real-life research with a team of scientists.

"I saw the ad for the contest in the newspaper and it really appealed to me," says Brian, whose winning idea was to connect high school students in Fairfield County with those in Churchill through social networking.

"Once friendships are established, we can learn from these Arctic residents about their local efforts to save the polar bears, how they live in harmony with the bears, and what we can do to assist them," Brian wrote in his essay. "They could learn about our efforts to save energy, conserve resources, and protect the environment with the future of the polar bear and the Arctic in mind. We could learn from kids our age what life is like in the Far North and how important the polar bear is in their culture. We want them to know our great concern for the polar bear and what we are doing in our community to lessen the effects of global warming."

Brian will join 15 other students from around the world in Churchill at PBI's Leadership Camp, where he'll work with educators, photographers and filmmakers in addition to scientists, studying the bears in their native habitat. And we're not kidding about "in their habitat." Vehicles called "tundra buggies," in which passengers ride about 10 to 12 feet off the ground. This allow the groups to explore otherwise dangerous spots like dens occupied by mothers and cubs. Brian expects to get some pretty great pics from those buggies, which he plans to add to the daily blog he'll maintain for folks back home. "I'm probably most excited to see the bears up close," admits Brian.

Upon his return, Brian will launch a campaign to get younger kids involved in polar bear preservation efforts by giving presentations to school groups about his experience. True to form, the adventurous teen has another expedition planned before he even leaves for the Arctic.

"I was recently awarded a scholarship to be an exchange student in Japan this summer," he says. "It will be interesting to see what the attitude is in Japan about global warming. Different regions have different carbon issues. Then I'll be able to compare Fairfield County to Japan to the Arctic."

Of course, as president and founder of the Staples High School Geography Club, Brian wants to add many more locales to that list.  Between his love of travel and plans to study science in college, his days of discovery are just beginning.

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