The winner, Sarah Cooperman, will go to the wilderness of northern Canada for a week in the fall to study endangered polar bears with a group of 16 students from around the globe.
Cooperman was chosen from a group of six Fairfield County finalists who included fellow Staples sophomores Judy Feng, Max Kurzner and Maddie Saveliff.
They were picked from entrants in a countywide essay contest sponsored by Gault Energy, a Westport-based energy company, and Polar Bears International.
"We were extremely impressed with our applicants' poise and sense of purpose," Eileen Flug, Green Village Initiative Westport town leader who served on the Competition Selection Committee, said in a statement. "While the choice was a difficult one, Sarah Cooperman's leadership skills and passion for conservation, as well as her ideas for engaging Fairfield County youth with age-appropriate conservation activities, won over the selection committee."
The camp will be Oct. 9 through 15 in Churchill, Manitoba, which contest sponsors called the "Polar Bear Capital of the World." Campers will board a mobile research station, dubbed the Tundra Buggy, and observe the polar bears in the wild.
"I am very excited to attend Leadership Camp in the fall, and to put the skills I learn into practice to communicate how climate change is impacting our planet and what we can do to begin to reverse the process, for the benefit of future generations," Cooperman said in a statement.
"I can't express my gratitude for this incredible opportunity. I know it is one that I will value forever."
The two other finalists were from Fairfield and Stamford.
Under the guidance of scientists, educators, wildlife photographers and filmmakers, campers will study climate change and how the bears' habitat is disappearing at what program sponsors called an alarming rate.
This year's Gault-PBI contest is the fourth annual for Fairfield County youths.