Aviano graduate goes to Ireland to pursue her passion
January 4, 2009
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Jordan Campfield’s love of animals is nothing new.
The 18-year-old has been riding horses for more than a decade. Friends and family members weren’t surprised to learn she’d be focusing a series of senior projects at Aviano High School on her furry, hairy, scaly or feathery friends.
Little did she know that her experience in the Walkabout project would lead to a stint caring for injured or abandoned seals in Ireland. And the possibility of a career in the field.
"The purpose of the Walkabout is to define yourself," Campfield said recently during an interview at the school. She was taking a brief break from her duties as a volunteer at the Irish Seal Sanctuary. "That’s what I did."
"All of my projects had to do with animals," she said. "I got so involved in the Walkabout projects that everything in my life was animals."
That certainly hasn’t changed in recent months.
She was accepted by the sanctuary as a resident volunteer/animal handler and started work in September.
She’s one of six such people who live and work on the site, and the youngest by several years.
"She’s pretty outstanding for her age," said Lynn Moore, the animal manager at the privately owned sanctuary. "She’s a hard worker and is ready to do all the tasks we ask of her."
Those tasks include feeding, providing medicine and care, and cleaning kennels and pools the seals and other animals use.
Asked to talk about a typical day, Campfield starts with an 8 a.m. feeding, but then quickly decides she can’t go much further.
"Every day is so different," she said. "And there’s always something new."
She said she learns something new each day from either her interaction with the animals or her more experienced colleagues.
"I want to be a marine biologist," she said. "I’ve learned so much here, more than I know I would have learned in a year in school. I definitely want to go to college, but school might have to wait another year."
Campfield said she plans to volunteer at the sanctuary through March when the typical season for caring for gray seals ends. She said she’d then like to try to develop some fundraising and marketing plans to attract more attention and money to the cause.
She’s already had some success on that front in one of her Walkabout projects. Senior English teacher Pam Hillestad requires her students to complete a series of five projects to pass her class. They involve separate projects in five areas: adventure, creativity, service, life skill and inquiry.
Hillestad said the projects — named after the spiritual journeys made famous by Aborigines in Australia — are "something of [students’] own choosing that pushes them outside their boxes a bit."
Students select a mentor and subjects for each of the projects. They then work on them during the course of the year, culminating in presentations in May. One of Campfield’s projects was a fund-raising effort to combat the annual seal hunt in Canada.
During the course of her research, she stumbled upon the Irish sanctuary on the Internet.
"I just kept it in the back of my mind," she said.
She and her mother, Joanne — her father, Douglas, is a master sergeant at Aviano — visited the sanctuary in the summer and spent a week volunteering. When a spot opened up, Moore said she was a natural to fill it.
Hillestad said she’s continually impressed by the scope of the projects that students choose and the efforts they make.
She said she’s not surprised at Campfield’s success, "because she’s a hard worker." But, she added: "It’s probably the most different kind of thing a kid has done here."
About the sanctuary
The Irish Seal Sanctuary is a nongovernmental charity on private property about a half-hour’s drive north of Dublin. It cares for injured seals or those abandoned after birth and releases them back into the wild. It handles about 75 seals a year. Volunteers also care for other native life such as seagulls, badgers and hedgehogs. The sanctuary is generally not open to the public, though group tours can be arranged.
For more information, including opportunities to donate time or money, visit www.irishsealsanctuary.ie.