“Operation Endangered Species”, Soares’ winning program, is an eight-year endangered species recovery effort to raise and reintroduce mixed-age class Alligator Snapping Turtles (AST) (Macrochelys temminckii) back into their natural, historic habitats in southern Illinois. The genesis of the program began with research Soares read that indicated no ASTs have been detected in Illinois since 1984. Through the student-driven and developed program, students at Pontiac Township High School and in classrooms throughout Illinois will be able to raise, monitor and take vital statistics to ensure the vitality of the ASTs prior to their release. This real-world citizen scientist program is designed to save a species from extinction, inspire students to excel in the classroom and springboard them into their futures as informed decision makers through the cooperative efforts of their classmates, community members, businesses, teachers, local agencies and numerous foundations. The anticipated AST release areas include the Clear Creek and Big Muddy River drainage areas in southern Illinois. Soares lives in Bloomington.