Dallas Zoo’s youth volunteer coordinator Courtney Crawford guest blogs on ZooHoo!
Did you know the Dallas Zoo has one of the biggest zoological Youth Volunteer Programs in the country? We have space to place more than 400 volunteers at a time in jobs such as Junior Zookeepers, Conservation Guides, Aquarium Guides and Junior Camp Counselors.
Since 1988, children ages 11-18 who are passionate about conservation (just like us!) have helped make us the best zoo possible.
And the program is growing! This year we rolled out a new job – Park Ambassador. What really sets this program apart is that these volunteers must be 16-18 years old and have already volunteered with us for at least one session. This program also gives our up-and-coming volunteers another fun position to work towards.
While you may have seen Youth Volunteers throughout the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo (where they have mainly worked for the past 26 years), Park Ambassadors are now helping all around the zoo to educate visitors about our animals and wildlife conservation. Many of our Park Ambassadors have volunteered since they were 11, and have logged hundreds of hours.
Volunteering with us is a 10- to 12-week commitment. But ask any of our kids – they’ll tell you it’s well worth it.
“My biggest personal challenge has always been talking to strangers,” said Park Ambassador Erin Estep. “This program has helped me to overcome it more than I already have with other programs.”
These children truly do make a difference in our park by engaging visitors, spreading awareness about wildlife conservation, and ensuring our guests enjoy their time with us. One visitor recently said their zoo visit was “really special because of a couple of thoughtful and knowledgeable young volunteers.”
It’s inspiring to see these young people engaging visitors and dedicating their time to help others learn about our natural world. I love watching them grow in knowledge and confidence through the years, and even through one volunteer session.
“I volunteer at the Dallas Zoo because I love animals, and I want to make a difference in the community,” said Kenzi Appell, one of our very first Park Ambassadors in 2015.
Our Park Ambassadors have gone beyond the comforts of their “home” in the Children’s Zoo to Simmons Safari Base Camp and our Herpetarium to share the Dallas Zoo’s conservation messages. By helping the Zoo educate visitors, Youth Volunteers also achieve personal growth that will help them succeed as they grow into young adults.
Our Youth Volunteers are key helpers in supporting the Dallas Zoo’s mission of “Conserving Wildlife and Inspiring a Passion for Nature,” and it brings me great joy to be able to expand the program and provide even more opportunities for our dedicated and passionate volunteers.
Our NEW Park Ambassador program kicks off again Sept. 6. For more information about all of our Youth Volunteer Programs and how to apply, CLICK HERE.
Check out this slideshow of some of our Park Ambassadors sharing why they volunteer at the Dallas Zoo. Photos by Courtney Crawford and Shannon Linton.