Zoo ‘ZAP’ program turns 20 with an assist from First Tech

Zoo ‘ZAP’ program turns 20 with an assist from First Tech

Now in its 20th year, the Zoo Animal Presenter program, presented by First Tech Federal Credit Union, is older than some of its graduates. The three-year, paid internship program at the Oregon Zoo primarily serves youth of color and youth from low-income families, providing mentored work experience.

“With ZAP, our aim is to encourage young people’s interest in wildlife and conservation, and First Tech’s partnership is helping us fulfill that mission,” said Grant Spickelmier, zoo education curator. “Over the past two decades, ZAP has been able to grow and thrive thanks to generous contributions from the community. Today, it is nationally recognized as a successful youth-development program.”

“We know that our communities thrive when our youth are given opportunities to learn and grow,” added Nicole Frisch, senior director of community engagement at First Tech. “That’s why we’re proud to support the ZAP team youth in developing STEM related skills while giving back to the community in a meaningful and fulfilling way.”

Since 1999, ZAP has employed 226 teens and reached around 116,000 young people around the region.

“The ZAP program offers formative experiences for youth to connect with the natural world,” said Pam McElwee, ZAP program coordinator. “And at the same time, it helps strengthen the zoo’s ties to our community. It offers young people job skills and support to grow and learn while they educate others. Alumni have gone on to do some incredible things, with some pursuing careers in education, conservation and even comedy.”

First-year ZAP members provide animal-based outreach programming for children and families. The following year, members work as counselors with the Urban Nature Overnight program. Third-year ZAP members mentor peers and engage in internships at the zoo’s veterinary medical center and butterfly conservation lab.

For additional info about the ZAP program, visit oregonzoo.org/zap.