Kelsey Shaffer is your typical idealistic college student in many ways: bright, inquisitive and driven to improve the world in whatever way possible. The Boca Grande native and two fellow University of South Florida students - Dena Kittelson and McKenzie Ramos - will participate in a month-long work-study project in Australia this summer through the International Student Volunteers program.
They will work on conservation and education projects designed to enhance habitat restoration, wildlife sanctuaries, scientific research and outdoor education. Each worked to raise the $3,000 needed to make it, including holding golf cart and car washes on the island.
Question: With a predominantly older island population is Boca Grande too slow for a college student?
Kelsey Shaffer of Boca Grande
Answer: It's very relaxed. When I'm here I think there's nothing going on and it's slow and boring with a lot of old people. But once I leave for school and come back it's like paradise and I really appreciate what I grew up with.
Q: What is a favorite island activity?
A: A lot of kids on the island - there isn't that much to do - so we go golf-cart riding. And we always go to the beaches. That's a regular thing.
Kelsey Shaffer at a glance
Education: Second-year junior at University of South Florida studying finance.
Hometown: Boca Grande
Residence: Boca Grande
Q: Where is your favorite place to eat on the island?
A: Loose Caboose. Me and my friends always go there and eat. It's not too expensive and the food is good. They have a really good chicken wrap.
Q: You're no stranger to travel, are you?
A: While a student at Lemon Bay High School, I traveled with youth tour programs to China, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii, and I've also visited Britain and Ireland.
Q: Why does this Australian work study opportunity appeal to you?
A: It originally caught my attention in one of my huge lecture classes. Someone came in and spoke about five minutes before class started. My roommate went to an informational meeting and we thought it was something we were really interested in doing. We looked at our schedules and our budgets to see if we could fit it in. We thought it would be an amazing experience to go over there for a month to help out with the environment.
Q: Perfect world, what do you accomplish with this trip?
A: I hope to learn a lot. I'm not sure one person - I don't know how much of a difference I will make. I hope to learn about how to conserve our Earth and we're going to be doing learning sessions where we teach locals about how to conserve.
Q: Golf cart and car washes are a down-to-earth way to raise money. What made you decide to do that?
A: Well, we looked up ideas on how to raise money and considering it's a nonprofit organization we thought maybe we could be successful.
Q: You're raising money to pay your own way. How is this going?
A: We had our car wash and it went great actually. We met our goal of $500. We're hoping to make that at our next car wash from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 27 at the Boca Grande Fire Department. We're leaving on May 13.
Q: Australia is a unique environment. Is this what attracted you to the trip?
A: I actually previously went there two years ago now. We were there for three days on an educational trip. I have an uncle who lives there. I got to visit my uncle who I hadn't seen since I was very little. Me and my mom got to explore the environment more. It was just beautiful. It's probably one of my favorite places I've been to. Sydney was a very clean city. It wasn't like when you go up north with smog. I think they have a lot to teach me.
Q: Australia has one of the worst animal extinction rates in the world. How do you explain that?
A: I think it's because of development and cities growing outward and the environment not being able to sustain animal populations.
Q: A world traveler at a young age, how has this benefited you?
A: My parents have always encouraged traveling my entire life. Even when I was younger, whenever we had the chance, we would go to places in the United States. When I was older we went to Ireland and England. That was my first experience outside the United States. I was only 14 but I really appreciated the experience. I remember it so well.
Q: Your vacations are not just spent lounging around poolside. Are they all about education?
A: My mom loves museums. She's always been a person to bring me to museums and get me interested in history. Traveling really brings that out in me.
Q: Do you ever just have fun on these long journeys?
A: Oh, yes. We'll sit by the beach. In my shorter trips, though, I really want to get everything in that I can.
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