Youth Forward Scholarship Winter 2018 – Dedicated to the Zoo

Name: Jacob Matthew Wilkerson
From: Glen Dale, WV
Grade: Junior. Now a senior
School: John Marshall High School
Votes: 0


For
as long as I can remember, I have loved animals. It could be our
family dog that has been my best friend for years, or the giant,
stray turtle I found on our deck. During middle school, I began to
volunteer at the Good Zoo at Oglebay Park. I have logged almost 300
hours of service over the past few years. The community and visitors
to the park, as well as over 50 species of animals who call the zoo
home, are affected by the work I do as a zoo volunteer. Volunteers
contribute to the success of zoo programs, as well as educate the
public on conservation and the preservation of wildlife. Volunteers
assist zoo keepers and educators with their daily responsibilities. I
have volunteered in various parts of the zoo doing everything from
cleaning out the barn that houses goats and pigs to educating
visitors about the deer and ostriches. The past couple of years, I
have mainly prepared food for the animals. When the food preparation
is complete, I clean in various areas throughout the zoo. For
example, one of the most admired zoo exhibits features the golden
lion tamarins. Due to their popularity, the windows for their
enclosure are constantly covered in fingerprints and need to be
shined. Another area has many interactive stations for children, and
these need to be constantly wiped with anti-bacterial cleansers.
These may seem like small tasks, but for a zoo that relies on private
funds and donations, these are important.

The
biggest challenge I face as a volunteer is time. Weekends are spent
catching up on schoolwork and submitting scholarship applications, so
planning ahead is critical. But, the zoo is a happy place. I could be
having a terrible day, with little sleep, but just seeing the animals
makes me smile. Volunteering has taught be commitment. The zoo staff
is depending on me to show up and help them. I plan to attend West
Liberty University and major in chemistry. Although my major is not
related to my volunteer work, the zoo is only a few miles from
college. I am hoping I can continue my volunteer efforts because I do
enjoy it, and I think it will be a stress-reliever.

To
me, “forward-looking” means focusing on the future. My volunteer
efforts, along with about 75 other zoo volunteers, are
“forward-looking”. We are clearly focused on seeing the zoo
thrive and succeed. My volunteer efforts started back when I was just
14. The change that I want people to see is that volunteerism can
start at any age. Think of something you love to do and then find a
cause that gets you close to that. I know that if I come back in
twenty years, my volunteer time at the zoo will have made a
difference. The zoo is successful in part due to the volunteer
program. The volunteer program will continue well into the future
because of students like me who can attest to its worthiness.


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