Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s Teen Summer Program has inspired and prepared future biologists and conservationists for decades. Soon, it will welcome new and returning participants for summer 2023. Applications for the highly competitive program for sixth through twelfth graders open Wed., Feb. 1 at cmzoo.org/teenprograms. Applications will only be accepted for two weeks, so nature-loving teenagers should start considering the program now.
From May 19 to Aug. 8, 2023, Teen Summer Program participants will work alongside CMZoo staff to interact with animals, guests, keepers and each other.
“My keeper team is absolutely amazing,” said Teen Program participant and Junior Zoo Keeper, Cami Potter. “I learn so much from them, not only about animals and zookeeping, but also about life and how to be a good person. They’ve taught me about moose hoof care and big cat hunting behaviors, but also how important communication is in a team setting and how to best support people you work with. I know that these lessons and mentorship relationships are really important, and I’m super-grateful for the opportunity.”
In addition to gaining valuable experience working at CMZoo, teen participants learn to be nature’s best stewards with life-changing experiences off Zoo grounds, in Colorado’s wild places and beyond. Teens can expect educational, inspirational experiences, like whitewater rafting, camping, rock climbing, mountain biking, visiting local animal sanctuaries and Associations of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited zoos, and learning to be a leader and an advocate for wildlife and wild places.
“Ultimately, we hope that by offering these experiences that connect the hands, the heart, and the mind to the natural world, these teens will stand up for, and advocate for, the wild places and wild animals of our world,” said Austin Kennedy, CMZoo Extended Education Supervisor. “We focus on leadership training, animal husbandry, interpretation and public speaking, empowerment, and so much more.”
Participants also have the chance to go on an EdVenture Trip with the team, led by EdVenture staff. In 2022, the teens embarked on a weeklong off-grid adventure to the wilderness of Glacier National Park in Montana. In 2019, the teens traveled to Costa Rica for ten days, contributing to rainforest conservation and exploring the natural places and native animals of the Central American country. This year, managers are planning for another excursion full of adventure and nature-inspired leadership learning.
“The most rewarding part of the program is the amazing experiences you’ll gain,” said Xavier Klaphake, Teen Program participant and Junior Zoo Keeper. “I get to do awesome things with animals, like training an elephant or teaching guests about animals they’ve never seen. Also, we go on crazy-awesome social advocacy events with fellow teens, like International Mud Day and Earth Day. We even got to go on fantastic adventures such as the rafting trip or trips out of the country.”
EdVenture staff recommends each teen commits to a minimum of 120 program hours for the season. However, to complete the program, there is no minimum or maximum number of participation hours required.
Applications are open Wed., Feb. 1 until midnight MT, Tues., Feb. 14. The non-refundable application fee is $20, and no late applications will be accepted. Typically, only one-third of those who apply will be accepted.
After the application period, EdVenture staff conducts interviews with candidates, and ultimately accepts about 100 teens to the summer program. Teen Program participant Angelina Gusty has some advice for applicants who make it to the interview round.
“Make sure you speak clearly and make eye contact to show you are interested and want to be here,” said Gusty. “Share your passion, goals and why you want to be a part of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Teen Program!”
CMZoo’s Teen Summer Program is a tuition-based experience, and scholarships are available. Participation in EdVenture trips requires a separate fee.
If a summer timeline won’t work, consider participating in an off-season Teen Program. The Teen Winter Program runs November through February, with applications opening for two weeks each October. The Teen Spring Program is only open to teens who have participated in a Teen Summer or Winter Program. The spring session runs February through May, with applications opening for two weeks each January.
For more information – and to apply between Feb. 1 and 14 – visit cmzoo.org/teenprograms.