Skyline High School student Jordan Kenney holds a salamander during a college course at the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation in June.

FRONT ROYAL — Skyline High School senior Jordan Kenney has had an interest in the environment since she was a little girl.

“I’ve done a lot of research on the environmental problems that we have today,” she said. “I really wanted to learn more about that and how we can actually solve those problems.”

Kenney took part in a college course that was held at the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation in mid-June. Titled “Introduction to Field Conservation Ecology,” the one week course focused on conservation issues and how to conserve the biodiversity of the environment. The course featured class debates and discussions on complex environmental issues and hands-on field research.

Jim Kenney, who teaches AP Environmental Science at Skyline High School and Jordan’s father, said that he heard about the course thanks to an email from the Smithsonian and thought Jordan should enroll.

“They sent me something about these classes for high school juniors and seniors and I announced it to all my environmental science classes, he said. “I really pushed it with [Jordan] to make sure she applied for it because I thought it was a really good opportunity. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up.”

Jordan received a $2,300 scholarship that paid for the course. Jordan said that her favorite thing about the course was the conversations she had with her fellow students on environmental issues, like climate change.

“It’s nice to talk to people who have the same interests,” she said.

Jordan said that her time at the Smithsonian helped her decide to study conservation ecology, which focuses on the preservation and management of biodiversity and natural resources, when she goes on to college.

“It was a life-changing experience,” she said. “Before I went up there, I had no idea what I wanted to do in college. Now, I do. I definitely want to continue with this.”

Jim said that he was proud of Jordan, as her father and teacher.

“I’m proud of her because of the type of student she has blossomed into,” he said. “She is very selfless and a very kind person. She’s a top-notch academic. That also makes me proud as a parent.”

Jordan said she will get two college credits thanks to the course. She said that she is planning on going to either William & Mary or George Mason University — who partnered with the Smithsonian for the summer college course — after she graduates high school in 2020.

“I’m kind of thinking of going to George Mason just because I feel I would have easier access to go back to the Smithsonian,” she said. “They do semester programs for college students and I definitely want to go back up there.”

– Contact Donald Lambert at