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Westport Teen To Dive Into the Arctic

Westport student Sarah Cooperman doesn't shy from adventure. This Staples sophomore has backpacked through the High Sierras and bicycled from Seattle to San Francisco. Sarah is set to bicycle from Amsterdam to Barcelona this summer. She'll even spend a week in the Canadian Arctic this fall.

Sarah is the Fairfield County winner of the fourth annual Arctic Leadership Camp Competition — an essay contest sponsored by the Gault Energy-Polar Bears International Alliance. She will join 16 other students from around the world in Churchill, Manitoba, to learn about climate change and how it affects wildlife, especially polar bears.

"It was kind of natural," Sarah, 16, an avid swimmer, said of why she entered the contest. "All my life I've been really interested with animals, science and nature in general. I was that kid who would pick a spider out of the drain and bring it outside when others wanted to squash it."

From Oct. 9 to 15, Sarah and the other students will study polar bears up close in their natural habitat and learn about climate change first-hand from renowned scientists, educators, wildlife photographers and filmmakers aboard the Tundra Buggy, a mobile research station.

During the Leadership Camp, Sarah and her peers will develop a campaign to inspire their communities to be more environmentally conscious. Upon her return, Sarah will serve as the 2011-12 Fairfield County Arctic Ambassador and will be responsible for coming up with a plan of action to carry out that campaign in Fairfield County.

"I hope I can start [the campaign] with kids because if they learn better habits at a really young age, you can have a lot more success in terms of protecting the environment," said Sarah, who also volunteers at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, where she often works with kids.

Sarah, who has never been to the arctic, said she's most excited to see the wild polar bears. She also said she's looking forward to meeting the townspeople and getting to know her fellow campers. And believe it or not, she said she's even looking forward to the cold.

"It's just going to be a totally new experience, and I like new things," she said.

How are you environmentally conscious?

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