SeaWorld: A Moment That Changed My Life

Each year, Spark the Journey high school seniors have an opportunity to apply for the Henry D. Owen scholarship. This scholarship was named by Spark in honor of Henry D. Owen, a creative, compassionate, talented and diligent public servant who played a pivotal role in creating Spark the Journey. Mr. Owen was a distinguished diplomat and leader who served his country. The Henry D. Owen Scholarship was established in 2012 and is designed to assist Spark students who demonstrate a dedication to the program values. For the 2023 scholarship, one of our award winners was MaKyla. In her scholarship essay submission, she wrote about the events in her life that helped her discover her passion for marine biology and animal conservancy. 

Why is everyone so astonished that whales are held in captivity for entertainment and  amusement? These helpless creatures, performing flips and tricks for the amazed audience.  Watching through this glossy, glass enclosure, this girl imagined how she could be of assistance to these large souls. She had a special connection with these dancers of some sort. In the crowd  of SeaWorld’s famous Orca show, she believed there was only one person who truly cared and  was very sure of it.  

My story began here, influenced by the sight of these huge, black and white marine mammals. The well-being of the orcas shocked me; their dorsal fins breaking and cracking and tying me into this warped feeling of guilt. Everlasting sleepless nights began, late-night social media doom scrolls demonstrating the abuse and abandonment of captive animals. Seeing the bloodshed of being hunted and the fear of separation, I wanted to know what I could do to help.  

This strong connection towards these animals prompted a calling in me, my understanding of  these innocent whales. I dreamed of the pain they endured and their innocence. Racing thoughts of what would happen while unable to express themselves. Animals have a huge disadvantage  when it comes to humans understanding their pain and suffering.  

Watching the documentary Blackfish gave me the inspiration to study Marine Biology. Blackfish painted a clear picture in my mind of what happens behind closed doors. Tiny enclosures are filled with these gigantic, majestic creatures. Orcas are meant to be in pods; removing them from the wild causes emotional stress. To relieve this nonstop stress, aggression is shown toward other orcas and divers.  

In the documentary, the orca Shamu is a prime example of these aggressive behaviors. Shamu was captured and kidnapped from his family in the wild at the age of two. Being transferred to live in small tanks, with other suffering, frustrated and captive orcas, Shamu became aggressive towards humans and orcas. After spending years in captivity, he killed a young SeaWorld employee. Shamu had many built-up motives: separation from his wild family, bullying from other orcas, and fights resulting in injury. Learning these essential facts flipped a switch in my heart to have a future in animal conservancy. Removing animals from their family will cause more misery and stress, rather than only removing animals who are hurt and releasing them back to their home. 

These events influenced me to further my education about marine animals. Rescuing and  releasing these animals is the only form of “captivity” that’s reasonable. I knew I could do more  than simply studying marine life; I wanted the hands-on action of saving these animals and helping  them live a healthy life. Now looking into the future, I can imagine the woman I always hoped to be. My empathy for orcas has led me to pursue animal conservation, and my dedication to the improvement of wildlife has directly encouraged me to support the animal community. Hunting for sport and entertainment disrupts migration patterns and destroys families. I crave to work  toward the prevention of animal hunting and the practice of protecting wildlife. 

I believe the Henry D. Owen Scholarship will help me advance my education at Kent State University, where I am studying zoology. Scholarships can provide financial aid to students in order to help them accomplish their academic and career goals. The Henry D. Owen Scholarship will allow me to focus on animal conversation studies and participate in extracurricular activities and internships related to animals by decreasing the financial load of tuition fees and other expenses. This is an excellent opportunity that will widen my perspectives, improve my talents, and provide essential real-world experience. It may also provide the resources I require for obtaining my zoology degree. Overall, the Henry D. Owen Scholarship has the potential to be a great tool in helping me reach my career and academic goals as a student.