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The Toughest Decisions in Zoo Education: Junior Zoo Keeper Interviews
This morning eager parents and teenagers arrived at our education gates early to be admitted for the Audubon Zoo Junior Keeper interviews. This is a nerve wracking time for both child and parent. There are 125 applicants and only 25 spots. Each youth must participate in a panel interview, probably the first in their lives. They also will spend time in small groups with peers from across the New Orleans area before they leave the zoo. It is hard to tell who is more anxious-the parent or the child.
The Audubon Zoo Junior Keeper Program is over 25 years old and one of the leading zoo youth development groups in the country. Junior Keepers that get accepted into the program must commit to eight full weeks of training in the summer and then one weekend day through the school year. They will be trained on presentation skills, animal handling, customer service, conservation topics and more before they will don their uniforms and assist us in connecting our guests to nature.
They also spend a lot of time bonding with education staff and their classmates. The zoo becomes the second family for our youth program participants. We go on field trips together, have parties, movie nights and more. We have shared many highs and lows with our Junior Keepers and have proudly seen them go onto to be veterinarians, environmental scientists and educators. Our youth development coordinator is a former Junior Keeper!
I love seeing the fresh candidates come in and know that some of the eager faces I see will be with us for the next few years. I wish all the candidates luck and know that for every one of them the application and interview process is a first step on the path to their development into a productive adult.
Good luck Junior Keeper Applicants of 2014.