Daniela Yuschenkoff — who has seen The Lion King more than 100 times — was raised two blocks from the San Francisco Zoo and visited every Saturday.

“My Dad would say: ‘I’m taking you on a safari,’ and I loved it.”

Now, the 18-year-old sophomore — who has worked at that zoo for six years and logged more than 2,000 hours — plans to earn a Ph.D. and become a veterinarian.

“I really want to learn more about animals in the wild to save them from extinction. I want to collide my love of animals with my love of research because if I’m researching endangered species, or finding ways to genetically keep species alive, that will, in turn, help our ecosystem, which will also help the world.”

It would not be possible, though, she says, without the Jarve Scholarship — a gift of John ’78 and Jacque Jarve.

“There’s no way we could afford MIT tuition, room and board, books, or travel fees without this gift. There would be absolutely no way,” she says, adding that her Dad recently lost his teaching job and found work 400 miles south of their home, visiting now just once a month.

“The scholarship has brought me and my family financial freedom, and freedom from
worry, and it made it possible for me to focus not only on my studies but also on my outside
work,” she says.

At MIT, Yuschenkoff now has the freedom to intern every Saturday at the Live Animal
Center at Boston’s Museum of Science. She also is service chair of Kappa Alpha Theta,
where she plans service events and encourages her sorority sisters to get involved in the community. This year, the sorority won MIT’s Killian Community Service Award.

Yuschenkoff began volunteering at the San Francisco Zoo at age 12. She handled hawks, tortoises, and legless lizards. Soon, she became an animal handler and presented shows for more than 500 visitors a day. She presented to the crowd alligators, porcupines, and iguanas, and later camels, elk, and bison. She fast became the zoo’s top volunteer and represented the facility on an expedition to New Mexico and Colorado, where she worked with a team of geologists analyzing igneous rocks.

“I’m in a crazy amount of debt to the Jarves,” she says. “My MIT education is completely because of them. I think the best I can do is use it to its fullest extent and really use it to fuel the future.

“I’m absolutely amazed that strangers would want to pay my tuition. There’s plenty of people who can’t afford MIT, but the Jarves are giving me an opportunity, and it’s fantastic.”