Zoo guests often notice young workers out and about in the Zoo. They’re not baby-faced zookeepers – not yet, anyway! They’re our youth volunteers, and they know an incredible amount about the exhibits they help run.
And because we’re a non-profit zoological park, their hard work and dedication is critically important in helping our zookeepers and our residents. Last year, we had 400 youth volunteers clock nearly 17,000 hours of service.
Through the Youth Volunteer Program (YVP), they commit to a spring, summer or fall session, working 4.5 hours each week. “Volunteering here connects kids to nature at a young age,” said Shannon Linton, youth volunteer coordinator.“It gets them caring and learning about animals.”
Children ages 11 to 18 can work in four different programs including:
- Junior Zookeepers (ages 11 and 12): They help in the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo. You may find them cleaning the farmyard, feeding the goats, and more. They’re learning keeper skills, animal care, and how to interact with guests.
- Conservation Guides (ages 13 to 18): These teens help in the Children’s Zoo in Bird’s Landing, Discovery House, and Nature Exchange. They educate guests on Texas native animals, natural history items, and birds.
- Aquarium Guides (ages 14 to 18): Youths who love marine life volunteer at the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park, where they get their feet wet in Stingray Bay and the Coastal Touch Tank. Duties include educating guests on aquatic life and working as a guide for aquatic conservation.
- Junior Camp Counselors (ages 14 to 18): These teens work with children and animals during our summer programs. They make crafts with the campers, play games, and assist instructors during tours and field trips.
- ALL NEW Park Ambassador (ages 16 to 18): This new program is designed for teens who’ve attended at least one session as a Conservation Guide and are ready for the next level. Park Ambassadors will be interpretive guides for guests at stations in the zoo, including the Reptile House, Simmons Safari Base Camp, and the Gorilla Research Station.
Our Youth Volunteers come from private and public schools, or are homeschooled. “I love it. I have a great time. I’m interested in animals and relationships,” said conservation guide Alison Grogran, 17.
YVP is great for children looking to get into the field of animal management, conservation and education. Registration is now open for 2015 (it fills up fast)! Sign up here: http://bit.ly/DZooYVP