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Dr. Jane Goodall with Zoo Academy Students

Zoo Academy

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If you are interested in attending the Zoo Academy contact:

Glen Schulte
Zoo Academy Pathway Manager
(513) 363-2002

Zoo Academy Office: 513-363-2000


Students are often guest authors on the Cincinnati Zoo Blog. Check out their entries here!


The Cincinnati Zoo Academy has been a part of the public school system in Cincinnati since 1975. In 1995, the program underwent a substantial change from a strictly vocational program with an emphasis on natural resources and wildlife management to a four year college preparatory program where the students earn vocational degrees by working with zoo keepers for two hours a day. During the 2008 – 2009 school year we initiated a transition and became a Tech Prep program with articulation agreements with UC Blue Ash and Cincinnati State. Students spend their ninth and tenth grade years at the Hughes High School. During their eleventh and twelfth grade years they will spend part of each day at the Zoo Academy on zoo grounds.

Application Process for 2015-2016 School Year

Apply Now

We are looking for students interested in an academically challenging program with an emphasis on science, plants, and animals. Will you (or someone you know) be a junior or senior in high school next year? Do you like learning about, and working with, plants, and animals? Have you thought about pursuing a career in wildlife conservation, or animal care? If so, you’re in luck!!! The Zoo Academy is now accepting applications for the 2015 – 2016 school year! Complete the application and email to cincinnatizooacademy@gmail.com. Hurry, spots are limited!

Questions? Contact the Zoo Academy office: 513-363-2000.

Students in Action

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Teaching Staff

pamzelmanPamela Zelman, Special Education Teacher

Mrs. Zelman has been a special education teacher at Hughes for 13 years.  She believes that everyone has gifts and strengths; the goal is to help students find those gifts. She is also the Transition Coordinator for Hughes and is responsible for helping students with disabilities and their families plan for life after high school.

When not at school, Mrs. Zelman is the President of a local car enthusiast club, serves on the boards of two community groups and is involved in local preservation issues.  She tends her garden, restores old houses and is the parent of a teenager and handler of a big, fluffy dog.

glenschulteGlen Schulte, Program Facilitator, Zoo Academy

Glen Schulte has been a teacher for 28 years, the last 19 of which have been at the Zoo Academy. Glen holds a Masters of Science Teaching from Miami University and an undergraduate degree from the University of Cincinnati. Glen is an Ohio certified science and career technology teacher and has achieved the distinction of a Lead teacher in the Cincinnati Public school district. He taught at Miami University for 17 years developing and teaching graduate classes for teachers and led courses through the forests of Costa Rica and Peru. Currently, Glen teaches Horticulture Science at Cincinnati State Community and Technical College. All of this college experience puts him in a unique position to guide and advise students on their future plans. 

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Glen was a recent finalist for the Dr. Lawrence Hawkins Educator of the Year Award and was named the Sigma Xi Outstanding Science Educator in 2008. Glen was also part of an Antarctic research team in a joint venture between Miami University and The Ohio State that led to publications in several scientific journals. Glen brings all of this experience to bear for the education of the students. He has worked to increase dual enrollment offerings for students at the Zoo Academy as well as articulation agreements that will benefit students upon graduation. 

Katie Kemme, Teacher, Zoo Academy

Ms. Kemme teaches English and math at the Zoo Academy. She helps students improve their literacy and mathematical skills and increase conceptional understanding — all while having fun.  She is a certified Reading Specialist and also the co-advisor for the Zoo Academy’s Outdoor Adventure Club. Ms. Kemme is passionate about broadening her students’ experiences in nature and providing her students with opportunities to interact with people of different cultures. Currently, she is working towards a Masters in Biology through Miami University’s Global Field Program, an opportunity that has taken her to exotic destinations around the world. When she’s not at the Zoo Academy, Ms. Kemme enjoys spending time with friends and family, traveling, and coaching tennis.

Chris Edelen, Zoo Academy Pathway Instructor

edelenWhile Mr. Edelen may have started his teaching career in 2014, he is no stranger to the Zoo Academy.  Mr. E. spent 22 years working at the Cincinnati Zoo in the Children’s Zoo, Bird House, and Manatee Springs areas.  In 2001 and 2002 he journeyed to Antarctica to do research on penguin populations, he has also done fieldwork in Guam helping to restore the endangered Guam Rail back to their native habitat.

A Cincinnati native, Mr. E. enjoys cooking, karate, biking, and being a science nerd.  He lives in Colerain Township with his wife, 2 sons, 2 Big Brown Bats, a Boa Constrictor, an African Grey Parrot, and a cat.

Kathy Wright, Principal Hughes STEM School

KathyWright192x224Kathy D. Wright holds a M.Ed. in Secondary Education from the University of Cincinnati where she specialized in Secondary Science Education. Kathy is an Ohio certified comprehensive science teacher and has achieved the distinction of a Lead teacher in the Cincinnati Public school district. Kathy is also a Master teacher with Minorities in Mathematics, Science and Engineering and works with the non-profit to bring extended learning opportunities in the STEM areas to students throughout the region.

As a Howard University trained microbiology specialist, she has been able to use her knowledge as a scientist to bring real-life learning into the classroom. Kathy currently serves as the Principal for the new Hughes STEM High School. She is responsible for curriculum development, implementation and assessment. Kathy has received the Minorities in Mathematics Hero Award, the National Society of Black Engineers Golden Apple Award and was a recent finalist for the Dr. Lawrence Hawkins Educator of the Year Award. She sits on the advisory board for The Science Teacher journal, the premier journal for the National Science Teachers Association. She also sits on NSTA’s committee for Multicultural/Equity in Science Education. Kathy also holds a B.S. in Biology and a B.S. in Secondary Education from the University of Cincinnati.

From  ZA to the Zoo

Paul Reinhart, class of 1981
Team Leader Wildlife Canyon

When I started at the Zoo Academy (NRM) I was a very shy, introverted youngster that did not do well in school. From the very first I knew I had found a home. The teachers were different than I had had before and I was amazed by the keepers that I worked with. And, even my fellow students in class seemed to treat me with a respect and camaraderie that I was not used to. 

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I remember clearly our first week or two in the program an ostrich had died in the veldt. After the zoo’s vet had done his necropsy they let our teacher and the whole class dismantle this ostrich, render it all down to the bare bones and it was kept in the class room as a learning tool.

I should mention the teachers Dick Mills, Mrs Thelma Shotten (English) and Claire Ehrlinger (Horticulture) and all the animals keepers had a profound effect on me. Looking back, I wouldn’t change that experience for anything. 

 

Graduates

Natalie Lindholm

Natalie Lindholm (Natalie Ruth Mashburn)

416941_10151109306977971_1050263799_nMy dream as a kid was to work at The Cincinnati Zoo, and it still is to work at the Cincinnati Zoo!  As a tot I started my involvement with the zoo as a ZOT (Zoologist of Tomorrow), then after my ZOT final project entry I was invited, by Barry Wakeman, to join AIZ (Adventures in Zoology).  After graduating AIZ I became a JZ (Junior Zoologist) which was, at the time the premier education group for young people ages 15-18.  In and around that time, the “Zoo School” was starting up (late 70’s), and had recruited a fantastic teacher by the name of Dick Mills.  The school was then called “Natural Resources Management”, and was planned as more of a vocational school, geared more for kids entering the work force upon graduation from high school rather than college prep.  When I found out about NRM, I knew I wanted to go to that program more than anything.  I had been volunteering in the summers with the Education Department (when Thane Maynard was starting out there!!), and then I began working on my parents to let me go to NRM. 

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My given name is Natalie Ruth Mashburn, NRM.  When my father went with me to talk to Mr. Mills about the school, he thought it suspicious that NRM was everywhere!  Until he realized the name of the program! I was supposed to have entered into the school in the fall of 1981, but it was full.  We decided that I would be able to get a few classes, such as Government, and some upper level math courses, out of the way before entering the program in 1982 so I wouldn’t have to go to night school.  In total, I was in high school for 5 years.  That was really OK as I had been put ahead in Kindergarten, since I’m born in October… So, I really ended up in my real class anyway.

The Cincinnati Zoo was always a special place for me.  Beginning from when I was a little kid and going with my family, to when my mom would drop me off to go draw animals all around the zoo in the summers.  If I wouldn’t have been college bound, I’m sure I would have been happy and fulfilled having gotten a job at the zoo upon graduation.  My time there was so special!  I loved the zoo, the grounds, the animals, the keepers, the other staff, I just loved the whole package!  Getting to work in the animal (and Horticulture) departments was such a privilege!  Most of the keepers were wonderful teachers.  Some were wonderful mentors!  From giving advice, criticism, and support, keepers helped shape who I was, and who I was to become.  That may sound corny, but zoo keepers are a very special species!  Paul Strasser, then a keeper in the Nocturnal House (now the Executive Director of The Red Wolf Sanctuary) urged me to go beyond high school graduation and go to college, and then proceeded to plug his Alma Mater, Montana State University.  I applied and was accepted, and entered into my new life of academia in 1984.

At Montana State, I knew I wanted a degree that was in line with what zoos were then starting to require for hiring, “Biology or “related field””.  I ended up with a degree in Range Management, which was sort of like Wildlife Management, but without rigorous chem, phys, math.  In the summers from 1984 to 1990 (with the exception of ’88), I got to work in the new Joseph H. Spaulding Children’s Zoo, and got to ‘be a keeper’ for the summers, then go back and resume studies at school, the best of both worlds!  In 1991 I finally graduated, and landed a coveted keeper position at The Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth, Texas.  I had the degree from a university to boost my credibility on paper, but my zoo experience was evident to my curator.  Even though I was the last one to fill 5 open positions the Fort Worth Zoo had just opened, the Mammal Curator, Steve Clark, remarked to a fellow keeper that he could “tell” that I had come from prior zoo experience.  I think it was from having to learn how to hustle and work fast, yet efficiently when doing one’s assigned areas (thanks to the Veldt, the Bird House, Nocturnal, and Children’s Zoo!!!).

I have been in the zoo business almost full time since 1991.  I stayed at Fort Worth from ’91 to ’99, then moved on to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  I was only there a year, then moved back to Texas with my spouse, who was (is) also in the zoo business.  We worked at The Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas, then on to The Dallas World Aquarium.  In ’09 I started a two year veterinary technology program, and by the end of ’09 I left my position at the aquarium.  I held a part time position at the Dallas Zoo while in school, but it was only a temporary position.  Upon graduation from the vet tech program, I applied for a head zookeeper position at The Gladys Porter Zoo, in Brownsville, Texas.  I have been here for almost 2 years now.  A lot of the skills of zookeeping I learned at Cincinnati, I have taken with me through all of the other zoos I’ve worked in.  I know a lot of people who go to zoo school go into other professions, and I’m probably one of the few from my time who went from zoo school, to university, to working in zoos, so I’m one of the few who really gets to apply a whole range of skills into my present job!  I’m so grateful for my time at the zoo school, and even though I not only moved to another school for junior and senior year, I moved to a different graduation date than was planned for me!  I’d never trade the experiences for what could have been what I was supposed to have done!!!

Alex (Phil) Sanders

Alex (Phil) Sanders, Class of 2006

zooacademygraduateYou’ll have to excuse me if my sentences run a little long in places, or if my nostalgia gushes uncontrollably in other areas. The prompt was my thoughts and experiences at the Cincinnati Zoo Academy. I’ll try to keep this short.

For me, going to the Zoo Academy was no accident, when it came time for middle school me to pick which high school to go to, I decided to pick the most outrageous place I could go. I was a middle child and my older siblings had attended schools all over the city. I was tired to of being in the shadow of someone else. Gone were the days where older students I didn’t know would already know my name, or call me so and so’s little brother, or flat out call me by my sibling’s name. Nope, no more of that! 

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I scoured the Cincinnati Public school listings: Taft, Aiken, Withrow, you name it and someone in my family had already attended. Then, something came up that made me wonder if there was a typo; The Zoo Academy. It was different, and it was right down the street from my house. Sold! A little wrangling later, I convinced my friend Kenneth to sign up too, I told him that it would be easy and we’d be blazing new trails in our respective families. History has a way with plans, and I couldn’t fathom the thought that Kenneth would back out at the last minute, or that the Zoo Academy was so much more academically rigorous than anything I had ever experienced.

At The Zoo Academy my thirst for knowledge was constantly whetted. I didn’t know that a plant could be a boy, a girl, or both? I knew that the dinosaurs died out in a mass extinction, but I had no clue that there were four other mass extinctions in our planet’s history. Truly, 99% of all species to have ever existed are already gone. The big picture was present, but so was the small, everyday fascinations: the animals that we had in the classroom. I loved feeding this lizard that we kept in the big classroom. I would trash talk the whole schooling system, my teachers, peers and expound upon my theories of learning and the world. And then this lizard would turn it’s little head towards me, and flicker it’s neck in understanding. Don’t tell anybody, but I always fed that little guy an extra meal-worm or cricket.

Nothing was ordinary about The Zoo Academy. On our first day we were learning the do’s and don’ts of holding snakes, baby alligators and other small animals. One girl couldn’t contain her amazement, “It moved!” to which the trainer replied, “They do that when they’re alive.” Another girl soon needed to be assisted in the restroom when she froze too long while a snake went exploring around her shirt. When my mentor came to visit the school, he was shocked that there was a cheetah in the classroom being petted by students. And the school attracted a crazy bunch of students. Real deal, one kid was named Badger. It doesn’t get much different than that.

Familiar as well as unfamiliar hands-on learning goes on at the Zoo Academy. From the dissection of amphibians and looking through microscopes in the classrooms, to the nitty gritty of shoveling elephant poop in the elephant house or swimming with manatees in the various lab rotations. Between three and four week rotations, we would spend two hours a day working with zoo keepers in various departments each school day to earn hours and experience towards the animal husbandry certificate that we earned in addition to our high school diploma. And you know what, sometimes real-world life lessons on encroach on the standard curricula.

I’ll never forget the time I was working in the Elephant house, hauling bails of hay back and fourth each morning with Val, one of the keepers. Even one short flight of stairs was too much for me, I would put my hay in a bin and drag it to the elevator to get to from the commissary area to the animals upstairs. One time Val caught me in the act, “you’re taking too long, are you goofing off or something?” To which I replied, “Oh, I’m using the elevator, saving stress on the knees.” Val gave me what could only be described as an ‘inter-generational’ look, and I never took the elevator again. I learned a lot of things the hard way, like having to finish up lab hours after I had technically graduated high school in order to complete my animal husbandry certificate. I learned that being late to school all those mornings had a real consequence, and that consistency is key.

While I’m so glad that I got a second chance to cover up some of my mistakes, collectively, we rarely get a second chance to right our wrongs. Our modern world and economy can be short sighted, and sometimes that means robbing the planet of biodiversity in the name of quarterly outlooks. In 90 days you can wipe out 90,000 years worth of progress. I am so glad that I learned that sustainability and progress are not mutually exclusive, and that some things are just plain worth the wait. I believe that the tortoise and the hare is required reading in our culture for a reason: if we decide to live only for today, then there is no problem with poaching and deforestation, but if we live for tomorrow then we will decide to use our resources in a sustainable way that will benefit generations to come. Because I went to the Zoo Academy, I have called and written letters to my congressmen and become a more conscience consumer.

What is the value of a Zoo Academy education? Try explaining the thrill of skydiving to someone who has never done it themselves. I wish more students could get the great experiences that the Zoo Academy has to offer. For me, I loved it so much that I created a scholarship at the Zoo Academy, and if I ever make it big the first check I’m going to cut is going to be for sending a whole Zoo Academy class on an African Safari! There you have it, I tried to keep it short, but let’s be honest, the Zoo Academy is a life changing experience.

Emily Gross

Emily Gross, class of 2012

emilygrosszooacademyMy name is Emily Gross and I am currently a Biology major and Environmental Science minor at Hanover College. The experience I gained at the Zoo Academy helped me to get into college, get a job with the school newspaper, and get a job at the Dwight Chamberlain Raptor Rehabilitation Center. The most important thing the Zoo Academy taught me was to pursue what I love, regardless of cost. By simply having the goal to pursue what I love, I have had the experience of going to Chicago, The Grand Canyon, and Guatemala- all of which was paid for by my college, not out of pocket.

This year I will be going to Greece, back to the Grand Canyon, Peru, and then studying abroad in Australia. College offers many amazing opportunities and the Zoo Academy was just a stepping stone towards achieving my dreams. My advice to everyone is cherish your time spent at the Zoo and plunge forward into as many new experiences as you can. You have to have the courage to take a chance at your dreams.

Tyeisha Cole

Tyeisha Cole , class of 2007

I knew I would attend the Zoo Academy when I was just 13 years old. I won a scholarship in sixth grade to participate in the Cincinnati Zoo’s Junior Zoologist program. It was a life changing experience to witness countless bald eagles in the wilderness. The program coordinators who eventually became life long mentors advised me to look into the Zoo Academy program for high school students. When I entered 9th grade, I met Mr. Glen Schulte in the hallways of Hughes. I told him I would be in the next cohort of students studying at the Zoo.

The Zoo Academy became a home away from home. It was a place I could dive deeply into life sciences that fascinated me. I learned about the importance of wildlife conservation techniques that included community development. I spent dozens of hours in the reptile house; intrigued by venomous vipers and the sheer power of constricting pythons. I was able to challenge theories of evolution and compare the anatomy of various creatures first hand. I cared for endangered Sumatran rhinos, and learned how important research was to help wild populations. We even studied how some plants can be sexually dimorphic (to demonstrate which is male or female in the species), and how some plants could “mark territory” in their own special way. The Zoo Academy most importantly showed me how complex our ecosystems are. Today, I am completing an M.S in Environmental Policy. My education from the Zoo Academy guides my personal and professional career choices till this day. I hope in fifty years, it continues to inspire young and old minds alike.

Crystal Pepper

Crystal Pepper (nae: Rose) Class of 2003

Being a graduate of the Cincinnati Zoo Academy has meant a lot to me. It has given me a sense of pride and self confidence that has helped me in the various jobs I have held since graduation, and left me with many memories to reminisce about. When I was a student there we had what basically amounted to a two room school house with a small office and computer/ lunchroom. We had really nice bathrooms, two separate single bathrooms in the hall with our lockers. The classrooms were filled with various animal cages, tarantulas, fish, an axolotl. This was where we spent the last two years of high school studying zoology and botany but also learning how to be productive members of society. 

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Much was expected of us, there was a lot of homework to prepare us for all the tests and exams. There was even more hands on learning and instruction particularly when out in the zoo at assigned “houses”. I remember one of the most fun experiences was when I was in the bird house and was supposed to feed the penguins in their exhibit and so I trekked up the stairs with the bucket of fish and opened the door to a rain shower and try as I might, I could not figure out how to turn it off, so I marched on in through it to finish the job. It was not all so fabulous though, it was freezing in the commissary sorting and gathering together the food for all the animal diets to be distributed throughout the park daily. Preparing the diets in the houses was all kinds of sticky and wet and the smell permeated your clothing and hair be it odor of primate or scent of Sumatran rhino. I was fascinated with these large yet gentle creatures and the elephants. I love elephants and I like to think they remember me still when I visit the zoo. Cleaning their yard and enclosure was hard work but I still smile picturing myself with that shovel and wheelbarrow at sixteen gaining my first real sense of responsibility.

I had always felt out of place in school before but at the zoo academy I was part of the group and I became an active participant in the learning process. It was there that I started to find and use my voice and to be confident in my abilities. There seemed to me to be a real sense of family and comradery in our small group. We not only learned about science and animal husbandry but working on certain projects in pairs and on teams along with climbing through a cave and up a million stairs to cross natural bridge at Daniel Boone National Forest our senior year  taught us that coming together and helping each other would help us each to individually succeed.

I had the best teachers, when I struggled with my math classes they paid attention and gave me extra help, they found new ways to teach me when the usual methods just didn’t work. When I didn’t raise my hand in classes, they called on me more to answer. And when I was having problems at home and missed classes, they gave me a way to make up the work and not miss out on graduation. I have yet to meet such genuine, caring people. Giving up was not an option at this school.

I hope that the Zoo Academy is still up and running strong when my daughter is ready for high school so I can send her there. The school is a truly unique experience, it builds character, a strong work ethic and desire to keep learning.  Now, if only there was some kind of alumni association…

Emily Benjamin

Emily Benjamin, Class of 2013

emilyzooacademyEverything I ever needed to know, I learned at the Cincinnati Zoo Academy.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but it’s a near thing. High school is supposed to be where you build yourself up to be a part of the adult world and I know the Zoo Academy helped me tremendously. The teachers honestly care and small class sizes mean that everyone gets the amount of help that they need. The classes can be tough but they’re fair and if you want to go into an environmental field the Zoo Academy will give you an advantage. 

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Like many other students, one of my favorite parts of the Zoo Academy experience was the time spent in animals labs around the zoo. My first day of labs I was sent to work in the primate center and had no idea what I was doing. It was honestly overwhelming but I just rolled up my sleeves and did what I was told. That’s what you do when you’re a Zoo Academy student. The learning curve is steep but if you value hard work you’ll definitely succeed. You’ll be expected to work just as hard as any of the interns but it all pays off.

One of the best things about the ZA is the small class sizes. In a typical high school setting there are hundreds of students and it’s easy to get looked over in the crowd. In the ZA it doesn’t happen. You learn, eat, and work with the same group of people. By the end of senior year my class had formed lasting friendships and we keep in contact to this day.

I still think attending the Zoo Academy was one of the most rewarding things in my life. I learned that hard work gets you everywhere and that if you apply yourself you will be more than ready for life after high school. If you’re trying to decide whether or not you want to attend the ZA, do yourself a favor and do it. You’ll work hard, learn a lot, and make some lifelong friends and memories along the way. 

Rebekkah Mulholland

Rebekkah Mulholland, Class of 2004

When I registered for high school, I thought that it would be cool to sign up for the Zoo Academy especially since at the time I wanted to be a Marine Biologist. I had noRebekkah Mulholland idea what I was getting myself into. The first few days involved animal handling training. I knew this experience was going to be a doozy when I had to pick up a baby alligator that looked none too happy to see me. This unsettling experience was a reward wrapped in disguise that was just the beginning of many more rewarding unforgettable experiences to come over the next two years. My first lab was Nocturnal House. My duties for a few weeks included washing windows, washing blood buckets that belonged to the vampire bats, and pulling food bowls from the animals housed in the dome. 

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Some of my fondest memories involve feeding and bonding with the animals around the zoo. One afternoon while in Jungle Trails, I was cleaning the cages of some of the monkeys and also preparing to feed the ring-tailed lemurs when news broke that Michael Jackson was being arrested. I proceeded to hand each of them some food and spoke to them about what I was seeing on the television. They are attentive animals. They all came up to the bars reaching for food. I learned that lemurs and monkeys enjoy watching television. While all the other lemurs went about their business, I was handing grapes to a baby lemur. He took it from me and held it out to me!

Another memory that sticks out to me was my time in the Children’s Zoo. In the afternoon, the public is allowed to go into the yard with the Nigerian Dwarf goats to feed and play with them. How many people get to say they spent their afternoon playing with goats? My friend Cece and I also learned that elephants love jellybeans just as much if not more than peanuts. Who knew? There are just so many memories I could share about my experiences at the Zoo Academy.

It was truly a pleasure working with and learning from the zookeepers who loved their job and absolutely adored the Zoo Academy. On numerous occasions, some were very encouraging of students returning to the zoo as zookeepers. The relationships we built with them were that strong.

I am happy that my years spent at the Zoo Academy were spent with my closest friends who I still keep in touch with today. We often walk down memory lane and talk about our experiences at the Zoo Academy and the teachers who made us laugh, taught us so much as well as made us mad with the amount of homework they assigned us each night. If given the chance, I would choose the Zoo Academy all over again, no doubt about it. Although I did not go to school for Marine Biology or anything dealing with animals, the Zoo Academy definitely prepared me for college especially the rigorous course load. Here I am eleven years later with a Bachelors degree, two Master’s degrees, and in my first year of doctoral studies and my years at the zoo still come up. Those two years at the Zoo Academy were a lot more memorable than many of my years in college. I have family following in my footsteps as one of my cousins is currently attending the Zoo Academy.