Previous Scholarship Winners

2013 WAVE Foundation Scholarship Award Winner: Michaela Honkomp

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The 1st Annual WAVE Foundation Scholarship was awared to Michaela Honkomp.  Michaela is currently attending the University of South Carolina and plans to pursue a research career in marine biology. “Of all of the extracurricular activities that I have participated in, volunteering at the Newport Aquarium has by far been the most rewarding and exciting. I have loved every minute of my experiences, from educating guests to feeding penguins and fish. For this aid to come from an organization that I already hold so close to my heart is amazing and I feel incredibly honored to be awarded this Scholarship from the WAVE Foundation,” said Michaela upon hearing the great news.


2013 Nicholas Sperelakis Memorial Scholarship: Nolan Snyder

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A second WAVE Foundation Scholarship was established in 2013 in memory of WAVE Board of Director Anthony Sperelakis’s father who passed away this summer and was devoted to the importance of education. This additional scholarship (also in the amount of $2,500) was awarded to Nolan Snyder.

Nolan began volunteering at the Newport Aquarium during the summer of his 8th grade year at the age of 15 as a Summer Naturalist. He went on to be a Day Captain and earned a position in the TAP Program (Teen Apprenticeship Program) where he developed a passion for marine science. In July 2012, Nolan participated in a summer leadership program in the Eastern Caribbean called “Broadreach,” which allowed him to earn several PADI certificates. “The certifications came easier to me because of my experience at the Aquarium as I was able to immediately recognize fish and coral,” he said adding, “My time with WAVE is an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime and separates me from other students. I know how to educate the public about the oceans while keeping them interested in conservation.” Nolan is currently attending the University of South Carolina in the Marine Science program.


2014 WAVE Foundation Scholarship Award Winner: Daniel Martin

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The 2nd Annual WAVE Foundation Scholarship was awared to Daniel Martin.  Dan has been a volunteer since 2009 and will be attending Northern Kentucky University in the fall.

“During the 5 years and 900+ hours that I have volunteered at the aquarium, the WAVE Foundation has meant a great deal to me. While serving as an Exhibit Interpreter, I learned much about how humans affect the environment and how we can be better stewards of this wonderful planet. Working closely with the amazing animals at the aquarium in the TAP I and II programs has also deepended my love for the natural world, as I have learned not only to admire wild animals but to respect them as well. While helping as a junior camp counselor in many WAVE Foundation summer camps, I discovered a joy in teaching people about conservation. Educating young people on how and why they should help protect the planet and the animals that call it home are things that I enjoy very much. In every volunteer position I have served in with the WAVE Foundation, I learned many skills that I hope will help me in my future job, and, in addition, I discovered a love for teaching.

In my chosen career path, I want to educate people about the many things I have learned as a volunteer so they can have a better understanding of how to care for the planet and its creatures. I have always had a deep love of learning, but biology and the study of the oceans have always been two of my favorite subjects. As a child, stories such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Finding Nemo captivated my imagination, inspiring an appreciation for the undiscovered wonders of the ocean. As I grew older and studied biology and marine biology, the intricacies of marine ecosystems and the diverse ways in which animals and plants depend on each other for survival fascinated me. When I began volunteering at the aquarium, I was able to share my love of the ocean and aquatic life with the world. This is somehting that I wish to keep doing as long as I am able, and the WAVE Foundation scholarship will help me live my dream of studying marine science and education so that I can bring the message of conservation and the joy of learning to as many people as possible.”


2014 Nicholas Sperelakis Memorial Scholarship: Amanda Anderson

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A second WAVE Foundation Scholarship was established in 2013 in memory of WAVE Board of Director Anthony Sperelakis’s father who passed away and was devoted to the importance of education. The 2014 Nicholas Sperelakis Memorial Scholarship, also in the amount of $2,500, was awarded to Amanda Anderson.

“I can’t really remember not wanting to be a Marine Biologist; I think I have wanted to work with sea creatures even before I knew what a Marine Biologist is. When the Newport Aquarium was first opened, I was three years old and we became charter members. My mom told me how she used to take me there two or three times a week and I would spend hours looking at the animals and naming them. When I heard about the Summer Naturalist program, I jumped at it, as it was right down my alley! Now that I have been lucky enough to work at the aquarium as a WAVE Foundation volunteer as a Summer Naturalist, Day Captain, and in the Teen Apprentice Program, I have learned to love the aquarium even more. Besides being able to work with the animals hands on, I have learned so much about the conservation initiatives and education programs the aquarium and the WAVE Foundation sponsor all over the world from the Ohio River, to protecting the rainforest in South America, to shark and bird conservation and research in Africa. While volunteering at the aquarium I have been able to help people learn about and appreciate the wonderful creatures there are in the world. I have seen how necessary this is when people as me, “Is the water real?” or “Will the starfish attack me?” Maybe they were kidding but hopefully my answers helped them gain a little knowledge about and respect for the animals.

As I continue my studies at Bowling Green University in August, the wealth of knowledge I have learned at the Newport Aquarium will go with me. I would like to thank everyone there for their friendship, patience, and knowledge shared with me. Winning this scholarship means so much to me. My parents don’t have the money to help me with my educational expenses, so this scholarship is greatly appreciated and will be more helpful to me than you know. I can’t wait until I come back to the Newport Aquarium with a PhD in Marine Biology so I can make significant contributions to their conservation efforts as well as share my knowledge with other young people just starting out.”


2015 Nicholas Sperelakis Memorial Scholarship ($1000): Ian Gorby

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The WAVE foundation has impacted my life in more ways than I could have ever imagined when I first became involved in the summer of 2011. By starting as a summer naturalist at the age of fourteen, my climb up the volunteer ladder had begun. The positions I have held at the Newport Aquarium include Summer Naturalist, Exhibit Interpreter, Day Captain, TAP One and Two volunteer, and Animal Husbandry Volunteer. These positions have immersed me in to the world of marine and biological science, as well as given me valuable experience in public speaking, customer service, teamwork, and animal interaction. The experiences gained through the WAVE foundation will no doubt benefit me throughout my life.

The WAVE foundation has allowed me to work with the amazing people and animals of the Newport Aquarium, which has helped inspired me to go in to biological science, specifically evolutionary biology. My time spent as a volunteer has certainly influenced my decision to enter this field, especially my experiences within animal care positions. Working with incredible products of evolution such as Bravo the Giant Galapagos Tortoise, four individual Asian Small Clawed River Otters, six different species of Penguins, Lorikeets, and many other organisms from all over the animal kingdom have ignited my fascination of this field.

My desire to enter the biological sciences was no doubt influenced by my time spent as a WAVE volunteer. Time which has accumulated to over one-thousand hours within the past four years. Having spent so many hours within a relatively short several years as a WAVE volunteer, I express great interest in the WAVE Foundation Scholarship. This scholarship would help me to pursue my dreams of becoming an evolutionary biologist, as well as continue to volunteer at the Newport Aquarium. By helping with the expenses of college, this scholarship would also allow me to advance my open water certification to an advanced water certification, as well as free up money for scuba equipment, all of which I intend to put to use by applying to become a volunteer diver at the aquarium.

The time I have spent as a WAVE volunteer is relatively short when compared to the years to come, but the experiences of that time have and will continue to influence my life. If awarded this scholarship, the WAVE foundation will have an even greater effect on my future, and that of the Newport Aquarium as I continue to serve as a volunteer for as long as I can.


2015 Nicholas Sperelakis Memorial Scholarship ($1000): Sarah Gorby

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For as long as I can remember, I have always been fond of animals. Interacting with them, caring for them and studying them have always been hobbies of mine. I have been around animals my entire life and owned various pets throughout the years. I enjoyed the company of my pets and always dreamed of going into a field where I would be able to work with animals. I had just finished middle school and with the start of high school right around the corner a lot of emphasis was starting to be placed on college and what I planned on going to school for. I started considering different fields in science but being only fourteen years old the choices seemed overwhelming and I felt lost. Just before the summer of 2011 my mom had told me about a volunteer position for teens through the WAVE foundation at the Newport Aquarium called the Summer Naturalist Program. I looked it up online and thought it sounded interesting so I decided to apply. Within a few weeks of applying I received an email asking me to come in for a job interview. I was later informed I had gotten to job along with sixty other teens. I loved being at the aquarium, learning about the different organisms and being surrounded with kids my age who shared similar interests. I spent as much free time as I could at the aquarium. At the end of the stunmer my hard work payed off when I was recognized for volunteering (380 hours) the most hours out of all the other Summer Naturalists. During the school year I stayed or as a volunteer and due to my dedication and hard work I was selected for an interview for the Teen Apprenticeship Program (TAP) and later on accepted. In TAP I was assigned a biologist to work with and she taught me how to train, feed  and care for some of Newport Aquarium’s animals. I took care of several animals including: Asian small-clawed otters, lorikeets, fish and penguins. Volunteering with the WAVE foundation not only helped me gain a unique working experience. but it also inspired me to go to college with intentions of earning a degree in biology.

When I found out about the WAVE Scholarship I thought it sounded like a great opportunity that I could benefit from. Over the past four years the WAVE foundation has been a huge part in my life, I have remained an active and hardworking volunteer I am proud to say I have spent 1,253 hours helping out at the aquarium and I have loved every minute of it. I am passionate about volunteering and I hope to one day find a career that brings me as much joy as my time spent with the WAVE foundation.


2015 WAVE Foundation Scholarship Award Winner ($1000): Tami Thompson

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Since learning to scuba dive in 2001 I have developed a much greater appreciation for our oceans and the importance of conserving them, so much so that I am going back to school majoring in zoology. My main interest is in coral conservation as without coral many of the ocean’s ecosystems could not exist. As a diver I have seen how many factors can negatively affect these ecosystems, whether it’s a hurricane going through the area, a lionfish invasion, or an inattentive diver damaging the coral. Being a volunteer diver at the Newport Aquarium has allowed me to encounter animals I may never have encountered diving in the ocean. I didn’t even know what a shark ray was until I became a volunteer. Having a sand tiger shark swim 6” over your head and looking up into its menacing teeth is a truly awesome experience. Fish in the ocean tend to hide from you while at the aquarium they swarm you because they know you have the food they want. One of my favorite experiences is feeding the honeycomb moray, she is very gentle and ever so delicately takes a fish. And I love to interact with the guests from inside the tank. It’s especially satisfying to see how the smaller children react, some of them can’t figure out what that strange creature, the scuba diver, in the water is, while others are fascinated and amazed and very excited. It’s very fun to get them to interact with me, whether it’s playing rock, paper, scissors, or getting them to place their hand up to mine on the acrylic. There have been countless times in which I’ve discussed with people that sharks are not really all that scary, you need to respect them, but they are not at all like what you see in the movies. I sincerely hope I have been able to excite, engage and educate people enough so that they do something to help preserve our environments, whether it’s starting to recycle, or eventually choosing a career in conservation. I’m currently working full time and taking classes part time at Ohio State University. My goal is to eventually change careers to marine biology. A scholarship from the Newport Aquarium will go a long way in making this dream happen more quickly.


2015 WAVE Foundation Scholarship Award Winner ($1000): Alison Goetz

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I entered the Newport Aquarium with awe and wonder as a little girl the year it opened, and I have never lost my child like fascination with the innumerable treasures that it holds! As a teen, I met otters, touched penguins, and observed every living creature at the Aquarium. Following a fascinating college internship there, I became a volunteer scuba diver, and was honored to accept one of the “Diver of the Year” awards at Newport’s recent Volunteer Appreciation event. It is fun to tell true stories about helping to net a huge threadfin snapper, and watching a puffer spawn right in front of me! Being surrounded by millions of eggs and collecting a few to study under the microscope is an experience that I will never forget! The WAVE Foundation is accomplishing the goal of exciting, engaging, and educating students like my by offering opportunities to be a Newport Aquarium patron, intern, and diver. The Newport Aquarium contributes immensely to my growing knowledge which I enthusiastically pass along. I excitedly followed Sweet Pea’s pregnancy last fall, watch videos of her little pups, and mourned their loss, keeping in mind how much was learned from the entire experience. I follow the annual sea turtle conservation work and Newport Aquarium’s process of rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing a hatchling every year. As a future biologist I hope to contribute professionally to similar ongoing efforts. In the meantime I am planning to participate for a few days this fall in the Coral Reconstruction Foundation’s coral reef nursery and out planting mission, and to learn how to ID fish and conduct surveys in the filed through the REEF program. My varied college experiences with marine biology education, exotic animal care, and conservation efforts first began, and continue still, at the Newport Aquarium. In addition to serving as a Newport Aquarium intern (2013), I spent a semester interning at the Indianapolis Zoo (2014) where I tended to cetaceans, pinnipeds, and carnivores. Last summer (2014), I was active in field study courses at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, where we studied the biology and ecology of marine life by directly investigating the Gulf waters.

This summer (2015), I was chosen for an undergraduate research experience through Central Michigan University, and will live on Beaver Island in the middle of Lake Michigan to research biological and ecological conditions. My interests are broad within the field of aquatic biology, because I enjoy it all! My life’s focus has always remained on God, his marvelous creation, and the need for our stewardship of the natural world. I retain a special fascination for the water and the varied life within it. The WAVE Foundation scholarship program would aid my on–‐going education toward a bachelor’s degree in Biology, emphasizing aquatic life and conservation, from Thomas Edison State College. I dearly love the Newport Aquarium, and all of my experiences combine to help me better see the overall interconnectedness of biology, ecological habitats, and conservation efforts, and to pass this understanding along to others.


2015 WAVE Foundation Scholarship Award Winner ($1000): Sam Hoesl

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Currently I am enrolled as a student at Bowling Green State University as a Biology Major with a specialization in Marine and Aquatic Biology. I am expecting to graduate in 2018 with my degree. Even though I have only begun my college education, I am confident that I have picked the right major to study and I am looking forward to a successful career as a marine biologist. The reason for my confidence and optimism is because of my involvement as a volunteer through the WAVE Foundation at the Newport Aquarium. The Wave Foundation has impacted my life by helping me find my true passion in life.

Throughout my whole life I have always loved animals, but I never really found the passion I would need to achieve my career goals. This changed when I became involved in the WAVE Foundation in May of 2012. One part of the mission statement of the WAVE foundation is volunteerism. It is through their mission to give others the chance to volunteer that I found my passion. I can honestly say that volunteering at the Newport Aquarium through the WAVE Foundation has changed my life for the better, because it was there standing on the floor talking to guest and then spending time behind the scenes to work with the exhibit animals that I found my true passion in life. I first discovered that I loved working with aquatic animals as a volunteer and I plan on making a career out of my love of working with animals. Another key element of the WAVE Foundation that has been impactful is education. I found that in addition to my love of working with aquatic animals, I also have a strong desire to spread my passion to others. Being able to work with animals and then share the beauty of the natural world with others gives me a strong sense of belonging. Without my involvement in the WAVE Foundation I do not know what I would be doing or even if I would have found my true passion in life. This upcoming summer of 2015 I will have the chance to be an intern at the Newport Aquarium through the WAVE Foundation and I am very excited to have the opptunity to work with a biologist, because I aspire to eventually become a aquarium biologist. This summer I know that I will gain a lot of valuable experience that will aid me in my career journey.

I am interested in the scholarship because it will contribute to furthering my education at Bowling Green State University. It will go towards my college education so that I can leave college with the best possible basis to build my career on. The WAVE Foundation has already helped me a great deal, but I know that it is up to me to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible to follow my passion, and this scholarship is another way for me to explore my passion.