Name: Shalesa Johnson
From: Saint Paul, MN
At the young age of 13, I choose to volunteer at Como Zoo, which is based in Saint Paul, MN. The program that I was with was called Nature Walk, and it was specialized for youth ages 13-18. I worked three days a week in the summer as well as two weekends every month during the school year. As a Nature Walk volunteer, my primary responsibilities included being able to hold and educate visitors about animals such as snakes, lizards and even hissing cockroaches. Although my experience also allowed me to educate about the less handleable animals like the bison, polar bears and arctic fox.
Throughout my five years volunteering it assisted in making a more serious choice, like what I will study during college. As a volunteer and a woman of color, of course I received the comments of “I’m very impressed with your knowledge”. This fueled me to reach even further, so they could really be impressed. For the past 5 years I have received positions working with urban area youth and educating them about the outdoors, as well as being able to provide a hands on approach to learning. From being able to incorporate the ecosystem into learning has been the most rewarding.
I plan on pursuing my passion of being an educator to folks of all ages and abilities and show the world something really impressive. I believe that people alike shouldn’t be stopped because of the ‘norm’, and regardless of where they come from. I want today’s youth to learn and grown through hands on learning and have more of a passion about the environment around them. I believe that from my experience as a young volunteer this has shaped me into being the person I am today, and I look forward to making and even larger impact on our world tomorrow.