Cincinnati Zoo Engages Youth to Help Community

Posted June 17, 2022

Two projects this week give teens opportunities to help kids

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is committed to supporting its neighbors and inspiring the next generation to care about community and the environment.  Two projects this week at Rockdale Academy in Avondale, the Zoo’s home, provided opportunities for the Zoo Teen team and young adults from Groundwork Ohio River Valley to get their hands dirty to improve safety for students and provide food and beauty for neighbors.

Photos | Rockdale Garden video | Painting safety barriers video


“Earlier this week, Zoo horticulture staff, board members, the leadership team, and volunteers from our partner MadTree Brewing were joined by Groundwork ORV’s Green Team to plant, mulch, and harvest in the Rockdale Urban Learning Garden,” said Cincinnati Zoo director of community partnerships in conservation Mollie O’Neil. “In addition to performing garden maintenance, volunteers gave Avondale residents flowering plants donated by a local nursery and thousands of tomato plants that Rockdale students grew.”


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The Groundwork Green Team program provides teens with income and transferable skills that they can use to pursue future employment in the green industry.  By participating in activities like the Rockdale Garden community event, they learn the basics of creating healthy landscapes and get to connect with organizations that model sustainable behaviors.

The Zoo’s own teen group, Zoo Teens, joined the Green Team at Rockdale again yesterday and today to setup and paint safety barriers intended to slow traffic on Rockdale Ave., which borders the school. This time, volunteers from Fifth Third Bank, Avondale Community Council, Cincinnati City Council, and artists from the community pitched in to get the job done.

“It is heartening that so many organizations are willing to step up and lend a hand when asked,” said Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard, who was on hand for the Rockdale event on Tuesday.  “The original planting of the learning garden was part of a Community Makeover in 2021 that included participation and support from The Cincinnati Reds, P&G, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. We, along with Rockdale Academy staff and the Avondale Community Council, are fully committed to using our networks and creative resources to ensure that this learning landscape lasts and is sustainable.”