MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Two Florida International University students received a special surprise Thursday from Zoo Miami.
Both students received $5,000 scholarships to expand their focus on marine biology.
“The Ron Magill Conservation Scholarship came as a product of the Ron Magill Conservation Endowment -- that’s an endowment I started here at the zoo to help protect animals in the wild,” Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill said.
This is the second year the scholarships have been awarded to deserving students.
Magill passed out the $5,000 checks Thursday to the two students who participated in the first ever selection process.
“I’m blown away,” one of the recipient’s, Jose Bisbe-Ochoa, said.
“I’m extremely surprised. I wasn’t expecting this,” the other recipient, Maraa Clara Figueredo said.
The pair both emigrated to the U.S. from other countries.
The students thought they were going to have to battle it out for one scholarship, but that wasn’t the case.
“These two just rose right to the surface and I looked at my fellow panelist and I said, ‘How do we choose?’” Magill said.
Both students are focusing on species of sea turtles and doing their field studies of hatchings. Figueredo said she has aspirations of diving down to get a look at the turtles in the water.
“I’m going to need to do some diving courses,” she said. “I would love to use this money for (that) and also to support my research.”
“I was trying to do a sea turtle project in Cuba. I was trying to see how sea turtle populations are doing, so I think this money is really going to make that possible,” Bisbe-Ochoa said.
It was a happy day for the students and an equally happy day for their professors and mentors.
“As much as they think that they enjoy receiving this scholarship, it doesn’t compare to the enjoyment that we as the zoo have in giving it to them, because that’s what we have to do,” Magill said.