Friends compete for the same scholarship, win again

Maria Clara Figueredo and Jose Bisbe-Ochoa are both winners — again.

Earlier in the year they both received $10,000 for sea turtle conservation research from the National Save the Sea Turtle Foundation.

Ron Magill at podium
Photo courtesy Zoo Miami Foundation

Recently, Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill surprised each with a $5,000 conservation scholarship.

For Figueredo and Bisbe-Ochoa it was a surprise to be receiving the same scholarship. Then again it probably wasn’t.

Both plan on advocating for conservation. They’re just planning to achieve the same goal differently. As a marine biology student, Figueredo wants to study how plastic pollution affects marine life and she wants to share those findings with people who can help. As a political science major, Bisbe-Ochoa wants to influence environmental protection laws to bridge the gap between environmental research and regulations that protect marine life.

Before Magill made the announcement, Figueredo and Bisbe-Ochoa thought they were visiting Zoo Miami for one final round of interviews for the Ron Magill Conservation Scholarship.

Bisbe-Ochoa couldn’t resist calling Figueredo. “We’re both one of the finalists!” he said. Figueredo replied, “Wait, did you apply for that scholarship, too?” 

Jose speaking to media
Photo courtesy Zoo Miami Foundation

What they didn’t know was when Magill would open the doors to the conference room there would be several news station cameras, their mentor – Elizabeth Whitman – and checks with their names.

Figueredo couldn’t believe it. Bisbe-Ochoa had to tell her they both won.

Up until now, Magill, the communications director of the Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens, has never awarded two students the same scholarship.

“I was so taken by the two of them I said to myself, ‘I have to give it to them both,’” he said.

This award is financed through the Ron Magill Conservation Endowment at the Zoo Miami Foundation.