Finding the career or calling that produces the most satisfaction in our lives is something not everyone achieves, and if they do, it can take a lifetime. For Hailey Bovee, the desire to become a biologist and make the world a better place was a clear direction she realized in elementary school.
“I’ve always been very in touch with the environment,” said Hailey. “I didn’t watch TV and was always outside doing stuff. I attended science camp every year and was a huge fan of National Geographic. I wanted to be a botanist, but in the sixth grade I decided on sustainability.”
Now her dream will become a tangible reality.
Bovee has been accepted into a biology internship program in a rain forest deep in Panama, where she will reside four months in a small, sustainable tropical community with a team of biologists and seven other interns. The biologists will study the surrounding ecosystem in a community they built themselves, with food they produce – living completely “off the grid.”
Founded by 10 students in 2010, the 7,000-acre tropical community has a population of 100 permanent residents, run by 500 students from 20 countries and more than 100 colleges and universities.
According to Hailey, the purpose of the bio program is to “assume responsibility of preserving the natural beauty of the land; develop biological field research, water systems and agricultural practices, discover diverse species and study sustainable practices to be put into place without disturbing the already existing ecosystems.”
Hailey is thrilled she was accepted into the cutting-edge program, but the honor has not come without a price.
To speed up her career, Hailey chose the route of the Grand Canyon Diploma in high school, sacrificing time and friendships to take on a challenging curriculum with only two other students, the first year the diploma was available at Wickenburg High School.
“I stopped playing softball to go academic,” said Hailey. “It was rough – no senior prom, senior trip…I gave it up. There was a lot I couldn’t do, but it was absolutely worth it in the end.”
In spite of all the complexities that went along with achieving the diploma, Hailey achieved the highest grade in the state in her English test and tied for first place in history.
Hailey earned the diploma and shaved off two years of high school. While her friends were attending their junior and senior years at WHS, Hailey was commuting to Prescott’s Yavapai College twice a week.
As the youngest student in her classes, she soon earned the respect of classmates and professors.
“Some professors didn’t take me seriously, but that changed pretty quickly,” grinned Hailey, who stayed late in the lab to “pick the brains” of her professors whenever she could.
“I was cleaning test tubes and taking out the trash and listening to the chemists, biologists and the whole science department,” she said.
According to Hailey, they were soon calling her over to see test tube discoveries that other students weren’t around to see.
Hailey attributes much of her positive determination to her mother, Wickenburg resident Laura Bovee.
“My mom taught me to never settle,” said Hailey, “that no matter how crazy dreams are, they can happen.”
In Panama, Hailey looks forward to a lot of three-day backpacking trips into the rainforest with other interns and a biology director. And when she returns to the United States she plans to use her skills and experience to teach others as a professor of environmental biology.
“I think the biggest way to make a difference is by inspiring others,” she said. “When I get back, I’ll be full speed ahead. I feel obligated to leave the world a better place. I absolutely have to.”