Thursday, October 17, 2002

Cheetah becomes more than a mascot

By Sue Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

AMBERLEY VILLAGE - Principal Christine Neville likens her 30 students at the Academy of Greater Cincinnati to cheetahs, the school mascot.

The students at her school for gifted children are like those in most schools, just as the cheetah is similar to other species in the cat family.

[photo] Cathryn Hilker shows off a cheetah named Saraha.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
Yet the first- through ninth-grade students are unlike their peers because they think more rapidly and approach problems differently, just as the cheetah is unlike other cats because it can run up to 70 mph, Ms. Neville said.

Students got a look at the similarities and differences Tuesday when Cathryn Hilker, founder of the Cat Ambassador Program at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, brought several cats, including a cheetah, to the school.

"We learn in different ways just as the cheetahs learn different ways than other cats to survive,'' said Kay Griffith, 11, who has three cats at her Anderson Township home.

"We've been speaking of that (comparisons with cheetahs). It rang true,'' said Derek Lester, 15. "It was a chance to see cool animals.''

Ms. Hilker showed students how the serval, Canada lynx, ocelot, house cat and cheetah adapt to their environment in the wild.

Students presented Ms. Hilker with a $300 check for her 10-year-old Angel Fund, which supports the Cheetah Conservation Fund. The fund was named after a cheetah Ms. Hilker trained and used in the first Cat Ambassador Program.

Angel died in 1992.

In turn, the students were asked to become a sister school with the Rogate School in Otjiwarongo, Namibia, near the international headquarters of the conservation fund. Its director, Laura Marker, will visit with students Nov. 8 in Cincinnati for a fund-raiser.

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