My name is Emily McGhee. I am a senior in high school and from West Texas. All of my life, I have loved animals, especially cheetahs, but it wasn’t until the past few years that I developed a passion for conservation.
About two years ago, I joined the volunteer program called, “Zoo Crew” at the Houston Zoo. I did not know much about conservation, but through the jobs and opportunities I experienced while volunteering at the zoo every day, I learned what conservation means and why it’s so important. Since then, my dream is to help save wildlife and make our world a better place.
I have always had a special place in my heart for cheetahs, but when I worked at the zoo everyday, my love for them grew more and more. I would get up extra early so I could go see Dash, Denari, Kito, and Kiburi (the Houston Zoo cheetahs – seen below) before my shift. I stood in awe as I watched the zookeepers walk the cheetahs around the zoo and hung on every word when they were training them in the back. Seeing the cheetahs every morning started my day off just right.
Since my interest in cheetahs was growing so rapidly, it was only natural to begin research on them. That’s when I found Cheetah Conservation Fund. I have read everything on their website at least twice. I am fascinated at all of the conservation work CCF has done. From rescuing cheetahs in the wild to providing livestock guarding dogs to farmers. When I learned about CCF and the things Dr. Laurie Marker has done to help save not only cheetahs, but all surrounding wildlife, I knew I found what I was meant to do for the rest of my life.
When I returned home to West Texas, I wanted to make a difference in my small community like Dr. Laurie Marker does every day in Africa. I wanted to teach the people I grew up with about conservation and work together to help protect the environment. Therefore, I established the West Texas Conservation Society (WTCS) at school. Our group is about learning about conservation and inspiring others to join our mission. Before the Covid-19 Pandemic, we were doing conservation presentations to elementary students and had many projects lined up. However, when the virus hit, we had to change our plans and adapt to our situation. We created a West Texas Conservation Society Facebook group page, and for the last week of school, we accomplished many goals. We reached out to the community and taught about wildlife and conservation. We had conservation challenges everyday for students to complete, held a cheetah drawing competition, and had a fundraiser called “Change for Cheetahs” for Cheetah Conservation Fund (see drawing submissions below).
I have many goals that I want to accomplish in my future endeavors, but they all revolve around the same dream – helping save our planet one step at a time. Cheetah Conservation Fund inspired me to take action, and for the rest of my life, I will work toward making a difference.