1999 vacation through southern Africa ignited a passion within Haily
"I fell in love with everything about Africa," says Summerford.
"From the moment I got there, I knew I had to go back-not as
a tourist, but to help in some way."
Summerford's work experience-first at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
in Glen Rose, Texas, and now as an educator for the City of Fort
Worth's Environmental Management Department-made her a perfect match
for an organization called Cheetah Outreach. The South African group,
which works to teach the local population about the endangered cheetah,
needed help writing programs for schools and developing teacher
Summerford spent last summer near Cape Town, working with five
cheetahs that serve as ambassadors for their species, participating
in school visits, writing educational programs, and designing Cheetah
Outreach's information center.
"It was intense, but I loved every minute of it," says
Summerford, who's continued her volunteer work with the group via
e-mail. Summerford and a team of Fort Worth and South African teachers
are writing a curriculum centered on the cheetah.
This June, Summerford and a Fort Worth-area teacher will travel
to Africa to unveil their curriculum to South African and Namibian
educators in hopes of helping them become more comfortable teaching
their students about cheetahs and other wildlife.
"It was amazing to learn how many of these teachers had animal
phobias," says Summerford. "A big first step for us has
been dispelling myths and helping them understand the cheetah is
predicted to become extinct in the next 10 to 15 years if something
isn't done to reverse that trend."