A Childhood Dream Come True
As a child, AmeriCorps member Brooke says the education programs offered at zoos, aquariums, and wildlife refuges in Wisconsin sparked her interest in animals. The complex interactions between humans, animals, and their shared environments intrigued her. After earning her degree in global health from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Brooke joined Racine Zoo as an AmeriCorps member to gain experience in conservation and youth education programs, helping foster an enlightening and affordable wildlife experience that improves the bond between people and nature.
Racine Zoo is one of several animal welfare programs relying on national service members to help them meet their mission. Each year, hundreds of AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers serve in programs focused animal care, student wildlife education, and conservation efforts.
“My most unforgettable experience at the Racine Zoo was getting to see some of the animals painting behind the scenes. Our Eastern Black Rhinos have ditched the paintbrushes, and instead like to use their prehensile upper lip, acting as an independent feature to carry paint to the canvas,” said Brooke.
A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity
Kenzie’s passion for the animal care field and appreciation for education in the conservation field led her to service. She joined the Racine Zoo AmeriCorps program, which launched in 2019, because it allows national service members to serve in programs with a unique blend of animal care, conservation, and education. She studied biology with an emphasis on animal behavior at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, where she had the opportunity to work directly on projects that impacted the local human and wildlife communities. Through her service, Kenzie learns about proper animal care for approximately 75 different species and more than 300 animals, classroom management, and building teamwork skills.
“My most unforgettable moment while serving was seeing a student's eyes light up when seeing a lion up close for the first time. It really cemented the importance of strong conservation and environmental programming in my mind,” said Kenzie.
Finding Purpose after College
Hope has wanted to work with animals – dogs and horses – for as long as she can remember. But, she found her passion for birds and research after moving to Florida. During her final semester in environmental studies at the New College of Florida, Hope was searching for post-graduation opportunities that fit her interests and skills when she found the Racine Zoo AmeriCorps program. Not only did the intersection of education and animal care pique her interest, but Wisconsin was an exciting new start for her. Hope is now an AmeriCorps member who says service has changed her life.
“There have been many moments at the zoo that I will remember for the rest of my life, but the most incredible was my first time hand-feeding our Eastern Black Rhino, Timu. It has been remarkable spending so much time with all of our incredible animals and watching their relationships with their keepers,” said Hope.
A Service Journey for Everyone
AmeriCorps members serving in zoos and aquariums – like Brooke, Kenzie, and Hope – demonstrate how young people can find careers through service when they choose AmeriCorps.
More than 7,900 serve as AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers in Wisconsin. Whether it’s helping care for exotic or endangered animals, teaching the next generation about how we all coexist, or preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs, AmeriCorps members at more than 900 locations serve to make lasting change for people and animals across the state.
This National Zoo and Aquarium Month, find out how you can turn your passion for animals into a career opportunity through national service.