Not Just a Summer Job
If I mention zoo careers, your first thought probably involves working with animals. That makes sense; our caregivers are at the heart of everything we do. But Lincoln Park Zoo has employees in fields from accounting to education, all doing their part to support and share the mission of Chicago’s free zoo.
This week, high school students from throughout the city are trying their hands at zoo work with our new Career Explorers initiative. Offered through the zoo’s Hurvis Center for Learning Innovation and Collaboration, this new program pairs teens with zoo experts, letting participants explore career interests and gain valuable work experience.
The workdays have ranged from drafting press releases to planning weddings. Ja’lia, a junior at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, has been able to see the zoo’s master gardening plan through the eyes of Director of Horticulture Brian Houck. Jordyn, a senior at Providence St. Mel High School, has gotten a crash course in lab work processing samples under the eyes of the zoo’s endocrinologists.
As busy as they’ve been, the Career Explorers are just one of several groups of summer interns at the zoo. Lincoln Park Zoo has welcomed Research Apprentices, Urban Wildlife interns, Fisher Center data collectors and interpreters from the Malott Family Zoo Intern Program, who share animal adaptations with visitors. We’ve been happy to offer all of them a space to learn, even as we’ve benefited from their commitment and enthusiasm.
The immersive portion of Careers Explorers will last another week, but the participants aren’t done when they leave for the summer. They’ll return once a month throughout the school year to connect their zoo experience with what they’re learning in the classroom—and their plans for a future career.
This sustained connection is what makes the program unique. It’s also what makes a fit with the Hurvis Center, which is committed to trying new approaches—and following up to see how they work.