Happy AmeriCorps Week!

Posted March 16, 2022 by Bridget Reilly

Imagine spending your days walking the grounds of the Zoo, talking with visitors about animal adaptations and global conservation, hanging out with snakes, turtles, and screaming hairy armadillos—are you picturing a zookeeper? What if I told you that you could do all of this as an AmeriCorps service member?

AmeriCorps is a national service program that connects over 250,000 Americans each year with organizations that seek to make a difference in their communities. From education to food security, environmental restoration to disaster relief, AmeriCorps members address a variety of social needs at the local, state, and federal levels.

So what does that have to do with the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden? More than you might realize!

The fourth pillar of the Cincinnati Zoo’s mission statement is “Serving Community.” This goal is partly realized by the team of 10 AmeriCorps members who are based in the Harold C. Schott Education Center. Throughout their 11-month service term, these AmeriCorps members help the Zoo achieve its goal of inspiring every visitor with wildlife, everyday—regardless of one’s socioeconomic background.

Currently spread across the Zoo’s Education Department and Conservation Impact Team—and with plans to expand to even more areas of the Zoo—the AmeriCorps team delivers STEM-based programming, connects with the Cincinnati community, fosters partnerships, and helps make the Zoo’s conservation mission more accessible to a diverse population of youth, visitors, and individuals. Public programs like Zoo Troop and camps, school programs like Close Encounters and Nature Club (hosted at neighboring Rockdale Academy), our expansive ZooTeen program, and corporate volunteer events are all led or created in part by these AmeriCorps members. Through the Zoo’s Living Classroom Education Access Fund (LCEAF), much of this programming reaches younger audiences who otherwise face barriers to accessing environmental education and recreation.

From September through July each year, AmeriCorps members divide their time between teaching, leading, and engaging in professional development opportunities across Zoo departments. They also learn how to handle ambassador animals and deliver effective interpretive messaging: two pieces of a Zoo experience that are crucial to moving the needle on the way people feel about conservation and environmental stewardship.

From March 13th-19th, we recognize the sweeping impact that AmeriCorps members have in their communities across the United States. For the Cincinnati Zoo, this means celebrating the role our members play in ensuring that all the adventure and knowledge that the Zoo has to offer reaches as wide and diverse an audience as possible!

Learn more about the Cincinnati Zoo’s AmeriCorps program and members here! Applications for the 2022-2023 service year will open in June.