[Noozhawk note: One in a series of articles highlighting Santa Barbara’s Man and Woman of the Year awards. This year's nomination period is now open.]
Jackie Cabral is a young woman with big dreams. A senior at Santa Barbara High School, she has already accomplished more than many people twice her age.
Cabral has made use of every opportunity that has come her way. She grew up in a low-income family headed by a single mother. She understood early that education was the key to her future. So when her eighth-grade classroom received a visitor from the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History to talk about Quasars to Sea Stars, a four-year science program for teens, she sat up and listened.
Quasars to Sea Stars is a science work-study program where students work closely with educators and scientists to learn about the natural world, including entomology, zoology, astronomy, marine biology and anthropology. Students also learn important life skills such as public speaking, computer competency and leadership. The program received nearly 60 applications the year Cabral applied. Only five were admitted.
The program’s requirement of 60 hours of community service introduced Cabral to the concept of volunteering. Concerned that these hours would keep her from home, she discussed the plan with her mother, who endorsed the idea wholeheartedly. She says the program helped her to grow as a person and to be a leader.
Cabral said she appreciates that museum scientists have been unfailingly kind and generous with their expertise and have high expectations for her. She came to view the museum as her home away from home. Now in her fourth year, Cabral exudes complete confidence as she approaches museum visitors to share scientific information on a variety of subjects. She works many of the museum’s special events — Winter FUNderland, Nature Adventures camps for kids, Halloween celebrations and Free Teen Friday — and shares her behind-the-scenes knowledge. And she delights in her regular work sessions as an exhibit interpreter within the Butterflies Alive! exhibit.
Cabral says museum visitors are delighted when she approaches. Teens sidle up and ask her how they might join the program. She relishes her role as museum ambassador and being a role model for teens.
She is working on her final requirement, an independent science project, which she will present at the end of the summer to the other Quasars to Sea Stars participants, their families and museum staff. Her subject is the life cycle of crabs and, with a grin, adds she will share an example of a preserved dissection and give the audience a “tour” through the anatomy of the graceful rock crab (Cancer gracilis).
Cabral’s experience at the museum motivated her to participate in Youth Making Change, a program of The Fund for Santa Barbara in which teens look into current issues facing young people in Santa Barbara County and learn about philanthropy and grant-making. She is also a second vice chair of the Santa Barbara Youth Council, advising the City Council, Parks and Recreation Commission and Parks & Recreation Department on behalf of local teens.
“I want to take on as many leadership roles as possible,” Cabral said.
She wants to make a difference in her community and has her eye on encouraging more Hispanic teens to take Advanced Placement classes. Reducing the incidence of bullying is another interest. She is determined to attend college, the first in her family to do so. She hopes for a career in the medical field.
Cabral’s mother, Emma, has supported all her work and sheds tears of pride as she watches her brave, accomplished daughter engaging visitors of all ages and representing the museum as an ambassador and young scientist.
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Volunteers enrich all our lives.
Do you know a volunteer who has made a significant impact on the Santa Barbara community? You can nominate that person to be the next man or woman of the year! Just fill out a simple nomination form online by clicking here. Nominations are open until Aug. 26. The awards are sponsored by the Santa Barbara Foundation and Noozhawk.
— Suzanne Farwell represents the Santa Barbara Foundation.