EDGEFIELD, S.C. — Melissa Bueker dreams of conserving wildlife and habitat for future generations, and now, with a $10,000 national scholarship from the National Wild Turkey Federation, and sponsored by Mossy Oak, the outstanding student can turn her dream into reality.
Melissa Bueker, a high school senior from Higginsville, Mo., earned the National Wild Turkey Federation’s $10,000 national scholarship, which was sponsored by Mossy Oak.
Bueker, a senior ranked third in her graduating class at Lafayette County C-1 High School, was honored during her school’s scholarship and awards banquet May 10, 2010. She was awarded the $10,000 NWTF national scholarship during the NWTF Tabo Creek Thunderin’ Toms Chapter’s fundraising banquet earlier this month.
An avid hunter and conservationist, Beuker volunteers her time helping those in her community, is active in many organizations such as the Future Farmers of America, the Conservation Leadership Corps, which is sponsored by the Conservation Federation of Missouri, and the National Honor Society. She also has received $500 local and $2,000 state scholarships from the NWTF.
“I’m excited and honored to be recognized nationally as a future leader in conservation, especially by such a well-known organization,” Bueker said. “The scholarship money from the NWTF and Mossy Oak will allow me to focus on conservation opportunities and general school studies without the burden of financial obligations.”
Bueker plans to pursue her passion for the outdoors by obtaining a degree in wildlife conservation and management through the agriculture department at Missouri State University. She will be the first in her family to attend college.
Her interest in conservation once led Bueker to enroll in Quail Unlimited’s summer camp known as the “Missouri Quail Academy.” During the camp, while evaluating habitat on a piece of farmland, Bueker decided to work toward a career in the outdoors.
“The week at the quail academy started a revolution for me,” Bueker said. “I enjoyed making plans that would help improve wildlife habitat and decided I wanted to help enact changes that would benefit wildlife in the future.”
When driving on back roads through Missouri, Bueker’s family made a game of pointing out wildlife in open fields.
Bueker was awarded the $10,000 NWTF national scholarship during the Tabo Creek Thunderin’ Toms NWTF Chapter’s fundraising banquet early in May.
Pictured L to R: Ben Doerge, NWTF Missouri State Chapter president; Mike Allen, NWTF regional director for Missouri; Melissa Bueker; and David Pulliam, Tabo Creek Thunderin’ Toms scholarship chairman
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“We would vacation and drive though areas where we were surrounded by the beauty of fields full of crops, the rolling hills topped with trees and the sunset reflecting off the lakes,” she said. “With such beauty surrounding me, I wondered if my grandchildren or great-grandchildren would ever experience it. I plan to ensure they get the chance.”
Bueker attributes her love of the outdoors to her father, David, who packed her through the snow to go rabbit hunting when she was 4.
“People say there is an invisible bond between fathers and daughters that can never be broken, and often no one knows what helped form that bond,” Bueker said. “For me, it was hunting. Whether it was hunting turkeys, deer or ducks, or fishing in the lake, the best reward was the time spent together. As long as my dad and I both have the drive and passion to hunt, we will be connected no matter where we are in life.”
NWTF scholarships are set up to benefit youth with a commitment to conservation and preserving the hunting tradition, and recipients may pursue any type of degree they wish. The scholarship program is part of the NWTF’s Five-Star program, making $500,000 available each year to graduating seniors throughout the United States by awarding more than 800 scholarships annually. To date, the NWTF has awarded more than $3 million through the scholarship program.
“Melissa is a tremendous young woman who loves the outdoors and is dedicated to her education,” said Mike Allen, NWTF regional director in Missouri. “She is the perfect example of what we would hope all our own kids and every JAKES member would be. She is a first-rate representative of the NWTF, hunters and conservationists and I can’t think of a better person to be chosen as the NWTF national scholarship winner.”
Bueker’s agriculture instructor and FFA advisor, Melisa Bertz, added that Bueker has an attitude to be successful in anything she does.
“Melissa never gives less than 100 percent; she is the cream of the crop,” Bertz said. “I’m extremely proud and excited that the NWTF has selected her for this scholarship, and know her leadership skills will help her to motivate many people in various groups throughout her career.”
Applicants for the scholarship are judged on their scholastic achievements, leadership abilities, community involvement and demonstrated commitment to conservation. The winners of the local chapter scholarship are then eligible for consideration of the state award and finally, state winners are eligible for the NWTF’s $10,000 national scholarship, which is sponsored by Mossy Oak.
The NWTF provides education programs, like the scholarship program, and hosts outreach events designed to preserve our hunting heritage while instilling stewardship ethics in the next generation.
JAKES (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship) is the NWTF’s outreach program for youth 12 years old and younger. Xtreme JAKES is the NWTF’s program for teens ages 13 to 17. Through local JAKES/Xtreme JAKES events held across the country, participants learn fun new ways to enjoy the outdoors.