Young environmentalist earns garden club scholarship

Student wants to help protect the Earth for generations

Seneca High School counselor Heather Gardener (left to right), Karen Froberg-Frejko, Colton Frejko, Michael Frejko and Pinelands Garden Club Scholarship Chairperson Barbara Trzaska stand in front of the butterfly garden at the Smithville Mansion.

When Colton Fejko was a child, he was passionate about the environment. Little did he know at the time that he would grow up to pursue a career as  a game warden solely dedicated to the Earth.

Growing up, his parents Michael Fejko and Karen Froberg-Fejkos owned a family farm in Shamong where young Fejko would ride horses, fish and hike with his dad and grandfather and care for the farm animals. Frejko said his family  inspired his concern for the environment.

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At the time, Fejko’s parents expected their son to pursue a career as a meteorologist, given how he kept tabs on the weather for the benefit of the farm’s  animals. But it was at Seneca High School that he decided he wanted a career  focused on the environment, after he took a class in junior year with teacher Grace McCloskey, at the time a scholarship advisor. She told him about a 

scholarship offered by the Pinelands Garden Club. 

“When I first heard about it, they said the wildlife and outdoor field, and I said that’s me right away,” Fejko recalled. “ I want to go into conservation, so right away, it clicked right in my head and I knew this was a perfect scholarship for me.”

The garden club’s mission is to encourage gardening and the study of horticulture, and to aid in the protection and conservation of natural resources, especially those unique to the Pinelands. It is a member of the Central Atlantic Region of the National Garden Clubs Inc. and the District VII of the Garden Club of New Jersey Inc., as well as a member and supporter of Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA)

Every year, the Pinelands Garden Club selects a recipient for its $1,500 scholarship, offered to a graduating senior pursuing a career in agriculture education, habitat or forest/system ecology, floriculture, horticulture and other related fields. 

In his application, Fejko spoke from the heart and with a passion for the outdoors, noting his desire to become a conservation officer or a game warden, a law-enforcement officer and wildlife professional who enforces state environmental laws.

“I said I wanted to do what was right for those that don’t have a voice, hence the wildlife and other animals on our planet,” Fejko noted.

Fejko was notified in May that he had earned the club’s 2022 scholarship,   and on June 13 at the Smithville Mansion, he was presented with the news by the group’s Scholarship Chairperson Barbara Trzaska.

Now, in his senior year, Fejko has decided to attend the University of Texas A&M and pursue a major in rangeland, wildlife and fisheries management.

“If I’m able to help make a difference in the world for my future kids and future generations of this great planet,” he said, “then I’m glad to be a part of it and I really want to help.”

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