Melanie Boncella at PEEC with Foxxy, the hognose snake. Courtesy photo
Melanie Boncella was one of the youngest Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) volunteers when she first became involved with PEEC around four years ago. Now she is 18, a senior at Los Alamos High School, and getting ready to go off to New Mexico Tech next fall to study some form of biology – ecology or perhaps genetics.
In the meantime, Boncella can be often found at PEEC, where she volunteers mostly with the animals. PEEC sat down with Boncella to find out more about her and her experience at PEEC.
PEEC: How did you get involved with PEEC, and what kinds of things do you do there?
MB: I started volunteering at PEEC maybe four years ago. It was around the end of middle school. I had done a lot of the programs at PEEC, so I was well-acquainted with the organization. I loved animals and the natural world, so when they said they needed help, I offered to volunteer. Somehow it just happened! I’m responsible for basic animal care – feeding them, cleaning the tanks, that kind of thing.
PEEC: How has the nature center changed since you started volunteering there?
MB: The exhibits were smaller back then, and we had fewer of them. We had more rotating exhibits, whereas now there are more and they are constant. It seems like there were more people around my same age hanging out at the center back then. There are fewer now.
PEEC: What do you enjoy about volunteering at PEEC?
MB: I like knowing that I can make a difference for a place this small, but this impactful. I like PEEC’s message. iIt makes me feel good about working for PEEC. My favorite thing is interacting with the animals. It’s so much fun to do. You really get to know the animals, which I enjoy.
PEEC: Do you have a favorite animal at the nature center?
MB: Oh, it’s difficult to pick just one! If I had to choose though, I would say Foxxy, the hognose snake, because I’ve been working with him so long. But I love them all, I really do. It’s really hard to choose a favorite.
PEEC: What would you tell someone who is considering volunteering at PEEC?
MB: It’s a lot of fun. If you are going to work with the animals, you have to have good concentration skills. The people at PEEC are really great and fun to work with. Volunteering at PEEC, you get to help out an organization with a really good mission. Please join. We need the help!
PEEC: If you could spend one day anywhere in the world doing anything you want, where would you go and what would you do?
MB: I would like to go to Nepal. I’m really interested in learning about the ecology and different animal species there. I would also do some humanitarian work. Can I have more than one day? You can’t do much in one day!