Youth Forward Scholarship Winter 2017 – Volunteering at the St. Louis Zoo

Name: Kate Valentine
From: Valmeyer, Illinois
Grade: 12
School: Valmeyer High School
Votes: 0

Volunteering at the St. Louis Zoo

Volunteering at the St. Louis Zoo as a Zoo ALIVE Teen Volunteer (ZA) is my
passion. As a ZA, I volunteer mainly in the education department with
events including camp and awareness days. The biggest challenge I
have faced was learning how to confidently talk to strangers at
education programs. ZAs are required to volunteer twice a month, but
I usually volunteer four to six times of month. Since I started
volunteering in June 2016, I have volunteered 700 hours at the zoo.

Besides volunteering with the education department, I also help take care of
endangered American burying beetles and endangered Partula snails. My
career goals are to work in conservation, and that is what I often do
as a ZA. In June 2017 I released American burying beetles in Missouri
which was one of the most satisfying moments I have had as a
volunteer. I have always loved nature and animals, and Zoo ALIVE has
provided many opportunities to learn about animals and nature.

Besides learning about animals and the environment, I also get to teach
people about them. When educating visitors, I focus on how visitors
can make changes in their daily lives to help the environment; for
example, I regularly talk to visitors about using reusable bags
instead of plastic. Volunteering at the zoo is “forward looking”,
or intends to positively impact the future, because I educate people
about how they can positively make an impact. Also, I help with
summer camp at the zoo, which has grown the love of animals and the
environment of many kids, including myself as a kid. The awareness of
the environment that participants get from our education programs is
the change I seek to foster in the world.

Years from now, visitors of the zoo and its participants in the education
programs will have still been impacted by their time at the St. Louis
Zoo. For some people, going to the zoo and interacting with
volunteers would not have had a big effect on their life, but their
interaction with the exhibits we create do impact them. For some the
effect would be as simple as using reusable bags. I believe that the
impact would be greatest for the children I have had at education
programs like camp. The effect camp has had on its campers can
already be seen in Zoo ALIVE today because many ZAs, including
myself, were campers themselves. Camp encouraged my love of animals
and nature to grow.

I applied to Zoo ALIVE because I was majorly influenced by zoo camp as
a kid, and I have stayed because of the amazing people I have met.
One of the most important things I have learned from Zoo ALIVE is the
effect a group of dedicated people can have. For example, ZAs have
collected over 5,000 pledges to use reusable bags instead of plastic
bags. I am proud to be part of Zoo ALIVE.

Join our Facebook group "Volunteers for a Better World".