This fall, Staples sophomore Brian Hershey will embark on the experience of a lifetime.

The Gault Energy-Polar Bears International (PBI) Alliance recently announced that the 16-year-old from Westport has been selected as Fairfield County's 2010--11 arctic ambassador. This program was founded in 2004 by Polar Bears International, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the polar bear's habitat through conservation, research and education.

PBI's Arctic Ambassadors Program is intended to identify and honor outstanding teens worldwide, whose leadership skills and commitment to global environmental issues uniquely qualify them to engage their local communities in the fight against global warming and the race to save the polar bear.

"I'm honored to be involved in the program," Hershey said. "Hopefully I'll get to learn a lot and contribute back to the community."

Hershey, founder of the Staples High School Geography Club, said that his interest in protecting the environment was a result of a lot of time spent researching, as well as his experience from having traveled to more than 50 countries.

As Fairfield County's new arctic ambassador, Hershey will travel to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, this Oct. 10--16 for a life-changing opportunity.

Along with 15 other students from around the world, Hershey will attend PBI's Leadership Camp, where he will work alongside leading scientists, educators, photographers and filmmakers while studying polar bears in their native habitat. During this week, the students will gain first-hand experience and prepare to give back to their communities at home.

Hershey said about the program, "I'm definitely looking forward to meeting the other kids, because they probably have very similar interests to mine so I think we'll get along. I'm also really looking forward to working with all the researchers and educators they're bringing -- I'm sure I have a lot to learn from them. I'm looking forward to coming back with a new perspective."

The students selected to become Arctic Ambassadors are chosen based on factors such as leadership, confidence, creativity and an ability to reach out and create connections with others. The students who apply are also required to submit an essay and participate in a follow-up interview.

Gault Energy's Megan Smith, who served on the Competition Selection Committee, said in a press release, "We were extremely impressed with our applicants' leadership skills, poise and purpose. While the choice was a difficult one, Hershey not only expressed a deep passion for the environment, but also a clear plan for taking our educational outreach to the next level."

Hershey also impressed the committee with his unique vision of utilizing social media to inspire communities worldwide.

"I had the idea to maybe connect the high schools in Churchill, Manitoba, to our high school through Facebook," said Hershey. "They could see our efforts to be more `green' here in Connecticut, and then they could be reporting back to us about what they were experiencing in the North. It would be sort of a cause-and-effect situation."

Hershey also said he would use Facebook to contact his large international network of friends from his extensive travels in hopes of gaining worldwide support for PBI's organization.

Hershey is confident that this amazing opportunity will set him in the right direction as far as further helping out the environment, and hopes that beyond the Arctic Leadership Camp, he can continue to play a role in the fight against global warming.

"Global warming is still a theory," said Hershey. "But I think the way we're living right now isn't helping, so if we could cut down on carbon emissions as a community, I think that we could do a lot of good."

When asked what advice he would give to students like himself, looking to help out with the environmental effort, Hershey responded, "I would say really just try to get hands-on experience and make a difference. I've spent a lot of time studying the environment, but you have to take the next step."

To find out more about the Gault Energy-Polar Bears International initiative,