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Junior Kaitlyn Pon’s interest in marine biology prompted her to join the Long Term Monitoring Program Experimental Training For Students [LiMPETS] program and the Teen Conservation Leaders program through the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Kaitlyn is excited to revisit this program this summer.

“During the summer, I got accepted into this program called TCL, Teen Conservation Leaders, by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and so every week I went down Wednesday and Thursday, to volunteer at the aquarium,” Kaitlyn said.

Kaitlyn has already applied for this program again to go this summer.

 “Definitely being around new people and just learning about new things kind of helps add to the application process,” Kaitlyn said.

Kaitlyn’s mom Melinda Pon, has been able to see Kaitlyn’s love for marine biology develop over the past years.

“Kaitlyn has always had a love for the ocean and started to become more serious about marine biology her freshman year,” Melinda said.

Kaitlyn is excited to interact with the guests again this summer.

“I answered all the questions before applying, and I was getting ready to send it in and I was super excited,” Kaitlyn said. “So then a couple weeks later they emailed me that I got through to the second round and then they would do interviews. I went to the aquarium a few weeks later and it was kind of like a job interview process.”

After the interview, there was a wait time before she found out if she got into the program.

“Afterwards they said that they would email us if they thought we were a good fit for the program, so a month later I got an email saying that I’d been selected to be in the program,” Kaitlyn said.

Kaitlyn made new friends when she started working at the aquarium last year. She is still in contact with her friend Alyssa Cruz.

 “The first time I met her in TCL, I didn’t see her as a stranger, she immediately became my long time friend,” Cruz said.

While Kaitlyn was working in the aquarium, she had to work two different job shifts: ambassador shift and guest shift.

 “[During] ambassador shift we played games with the kids, and presented different models to the guest, and on guest shift we interacted with the guests, and the touch bowls, and interpreted different exhibits around the aquarium,” Kaitlyn said. “We would also go and point out different things on the deck, and also during the summer, sometimes we even saw humpback whales, so that was pretty cool.”

As Kaitlyn continued to work in the TCL program, Kaitlyn got to see the inner workings of an aquarium.

 “You get to see behind the scenes of what really goes into making the aquarium great and then also showing the different ways we can better our planet,” Kaitlyn said.

Cruz thinks Kaitlyn worked very hard to motivate everyone in the program and the aquarium.

 “Kaitlyn is a motivator throughout the entire TCL program, she was always encouraging others to give it their best and continue striving for success, which taught me a valuable lesson,” Cruz said.

Kaitlyn thinks by being able to join this program, it will help her purse a career in marine biology.

“I want to do field research, so that will kind of help, and I really like working with people and science in general so I think it will just add to my knowledge,” Kaitlyn said. “Its pretty cool, it’s a once in a lifetime experience, that you just get to work your dream job at an aquarium and interact with the guests.”

Melinda also thinks this will help Kaitlyn in her future career choice.

“All of [this] has helped Kaitlyn consider the many options in marine biology, marine science, and environmental science,” Melinda said. “No matter the exact path Kaitlyn takes toward her future, she takes toward her future, she takes with her from this program with some individual work experiences along with wonderful friendships and memories.”