Most high school kids spend their free time having fun. Madison Chamizo likes to monkey around, too. Literally. Madison has volunteered more than 2,000 hours at Monkey Jungle’s DuMond Conservancy.
“They don’t have a voice so we basically need to speak for them and we need to help them out,” Madison said, referring to the primates with which she works.
They are owl monkeys, named because their big, round eyes make them look like furry owls. The ones Madison cares for are retired from bio-medical research. Some are blind, some are missing internal organs. These monkeys helped humanity, now Madison is helping them. This high school senior has been volunteering at the conservancy since she was in middle school.
“All of us at the DuMond Conservancy are in awe of Madison, not only for her enormous commitment and dedication to helping us care for these wonderful monkeys but also for her humanitarian concerns,” said Dr. Sian Evans, the conservancy’s director.
Evans is talking about Madison’s efforts to recruit other teenagers to join the conservancy’s project to use the monkeys to help disabled teens.
“They basically learn how to do independent and employability skills, they cut fruit, they clean their cages, basically things that they need in their everyday life that we can teach ‘em here,” Madison explained.
At Southwest Miami High School, Madison is an academic achiever. She’s in the top 1 percent of her class, taking all AP and dual enrollment classes. One of those classes is AP Art. Her artwork was recently selected to be displayed in a gallery show. Madison is also a star on the school’s championship badminton team. Is there anything this kid can’t do?
"I don’t think so, anything she puts her mind into, she’s gonna succeed,” said her coach, Marta Guinea.
Madison’s classmates say her love for wildlife conservation rubs off on everyone.
"And she’s very passionate about it and she’s really made me more conscientious about the environment and what we need to do to conserve it,” said Emily Diaz, one of Madison’s friends.
Another friend described Madison as the kid everyone turns to for help.
"And she’s gotten me involved in thinking of nature and how i can make it better,” said Kristen Gandon.
The way Madison sees it, spreading environmental awareness is a mission.
"A lot of this stuff isn’t really taught in schools, so I try to teach them what I know so they can help the environment as much as they can,” Madison said.
In many ways, Madison Chamizo is just getting started. She plans on studying zoology in college. The monkeys have taught her how rewarding a career dedicated to wildlife conservation can be.