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SEO Steers NYC Student to ESF for Conservation Biology

The first time Jason Bonet heard about the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) Scholars he was a high school student who was hooked when he learned program participants got the chance to travel and have "crazy" experiences.

As a SEO scholar during his four years at the High School for Environmental Studies in Manhattan, that taste for adventure sent him to the Talkeetna Mountains in Alaska for a 30-day backpacking trip with the National Outdoor Leadership School and helped guide him into an internship with the Nature Conservancy.

Now, as an ESF student beginning his junior year as a conservation biology major, Bonet continues to immerse himself in environmental science, the field that has been his interest since he was a freshman in high school.

As a young teenager growing up in Spanish Harlem after his family moved to New York City from Puerto Rico, Bonet said, he was fascinated with science but had no interest in reading, writing or math. His involvement with SEO, which offers participating students classes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Saturday, changed his approach to academics.

"We were reading different kinds of writings and it opened my eyes to a lot of things I'd been missing," Bonet said. "It got me really into reading very high-end literature and seeing the meanings that are in the writings."

At the same time, he was taking college-level global environment and writing classes taught at his high school through the ESF in the High School program. Continuing his education at ESF as a college student gave him an opportunity to "saturate" himself with environmental science.

"ESF is a SUNY school so it isn't too far from home," he said. "And it's completely all about environmentalism, environmental engineering, all different forms of environmental science. So I was attracted to that. And it was a small school so it resembled my high school. I liked that very much."

During the summer of 2015, Bonet spent five weeks taking classes at ESF's Cranberry Lake Biological Station then returned to campus and his job with Computing and Network Services. When the first-year students arrived for the fall semester, he served as an orientation leader. As he begins his third year at ESF, Bonet planned to resume his involvement with the Insomniacs, a student organization that sponsors alcohol-free late-night activities on campus.

Beyond ESF, he envisions a career as a conservation scientist or ecologist.