Teen Program’s Youth Leadership Action Board Hosts Local High Schools at First-Ever Youth Conservation Outreach Summit

March 27, 2024

Within Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s vast Teen Program lies the Youth Leadership Action Board (YLAB), a small group of ambitious teens that goes above and beyond to uphold the Zoo’s mission of connecting people to wildlife and wild places.

YLAB members work side by side with EdVenture staff to advance the Teen Program and find new ways to connect with our local communities. In January, YLAB’s Conservation Committee held the very first Youth Conservation Outreach Summit (YCOS) to foster relationships with local schools’ environmental clubs. A dozen high schools and middle schools attended to learn how teens and their schools could make a positive impact on local natural spaces.

“Our goals were to provide new ideas that environmental clubs can implement in their own clubs and to create a wide network to grow this environmentally focused community of high schoolers,” said Alice Maytan, CMZoo Teen Program Conservation Committee co-chair

Throughout the daylong summit, committee members toured groups of attendees through the Zoo, stopping at points that highlighted conservation efforts, like composting, hydroponics and pollinator gardens. At each stopping point, YLAB members would lead a group discussion and brainstorm ways schools could potentially incorporate similar conservation projects on their own campuses.

“We’ve already seen direct action from one high school, who hosted a gift card drive inspired by our conservation initiatives towards reducing petroleum mining,” said co-chair Mabel Kim. “It is exciting to see that the summit inspired them and that they were applying ideas and tips we gave them for organizing a conservation campaign.”

The gift card collection and recycling project has been a long-standing effort of the Teen Program. Teens collect used plastic gift cards and take them to be destroyed and recycled into other plastic items. This effort helps reduce plastic waste and petroleum mining in Africa, which occurs in the habitats of many African species, such as giraffe and Western lowland gorillas.

By creating unique opportunities and hands-on experiences, CMZoo’s Teen Program and its participants aim to help local youth realize how they can make a positive environmental impact. There are many ways youth can advocate for wildlife and wild places and be stewards of the environment, whether volunteering at local organizations or simply making a change in their own lifestyle.

YLAB hopes to continue and expand the Youth Conservation Outreach Summit annually. Interested high school clubs and advisors can reach Teen Program supervisors at [email protected] to find out more.

Until then, YLAB is staying busy, hosting its annual Earth Day event at the Zoo on Sat., April 27. Throughout the day, Teen Program participants will host a variety of hands-on stations at the Zoo that guests of all ages can interact with to learn how they can help protect our planet. Regular daytime Zoo admission includes Earth Day event activities. Advance admission is required. Tickets are available at cmzoo.org.

YLAB is also planning its sixth annual Youth Conservation Leadership Conference (YCLC), at the Zoo from Fri., July 19 through Sun., July 21, 2024. This unique, weekend-long event is open to all sixth- through 12th-grade students around the country who will participate in workshops led by our very own YLAB members. Participants will enjoy a wide range of conservation-focused topics and meet other like-minded peers. Early-bird registration for YCLC ends on Mon., April 15. Regular registration ends on Wed., July 10. This event is popular and is likely to sell out in advance. Get more information and register here.

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