Youth Volunteer Corp at Brookfield Zoo


Conservation Science Scholars Program
Frequently Asked Questions


What happened to the Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC) program that my friend/sibling was in?

We have taken some of the best parts of our YVC program and added on more pieces students, families and funders were looking for like: Flexibility, Science Research Opportunities, College and Career Readiness Training, Community Action Projects, etc. to create the Conservation Science Scholars Program. We hope the program will provide more extensive career and conservation opportunities to a diverse group of teens from the Chicagoland area!

How do I become a member of the Scholars program?

The Conservation Science Scholars program is competitive. All participants are selected after an application and interview process. Applications for the 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 program years will be available on this website in late September for Fall recruitment and mid-March for Spring recruitment.

How old do I have to be to apply?

For Fall Recruitment: Students must be entering 9th, 10th, or 11th grades to be eligible to apply and must be at least 13 years old by August 31, 2013. Students who turn 18 on or before August 31 are not eligible for the program.

For Spring Recruitment: Students must be entering 9th, 10th, 11th or 12th grades to be eligible to apply and must be at least 13 years old by August 31, 2014. Students who turn 18 on or before August 31 are not eligible for the program.

How many students do you accept?

We anticipate bringing 30-40 students into the program during each recruitment period.

When will interviews take place?

Interviews will take place after school and in the early evening during the last two weeks in October or the last two weeks in April depending on recruitment period. Interviews may be held at Brookfield Zoo or offsite locations depending on location of applicants for that term. Not all applicants will be invited to interview.

When will I find out if I am accepted?

All applicants will receive either an acceptance or rejection letter in early November or mid-May depending on recruitment period.

Can I join later in the year?

Yes! Two recruitment sessions will be held each year, one in the Fall and one in Spring. You must join during one of these periods in order to participate.

What is the difference between Fall and Spring Recruitment?

Simply, timing! Students who participate in the program will be exposed to the same types of experiences, just in a different order. All Scholars will have opportunities for career training and college readiness workshops, volunteer interpretation at the Zoo, offsite events and science training.

When is training? Do I have to go?

All Scholars are required to complete five Foundation Courses in order to take part in further workshops and volunteer opportunities. These courses will be held on weekends and school holidays during the year and on some summer days. A calendar of courses will be posted on the website and updated regularly. Most courses will be offered multiple times a year to allow students flexibility to take part. Courses will be offered at Brookfield Zoo and at community partner locations throughout Chicago and surrounding suburbs depending on locations of participants. Some activities and experiences may require additional training or preparation before you can take part. These will be noted to you as they are available. Please note: Dates and locations are subject to change, we will communicate these as soon as possible to all current Scholars.

How many hours can I expect to put into this program?
As a member of the Scholars program, you are expected to accumulate at least 120 hours of experience over the course of one year (November- October for Fall Recruitment or June-May for Spring Recruitment). These hours are earned through participation in science, college readiness and career training courses, volunteer experiences at Brookfield Zoo and offsite activities, field trips, and creation of your individual portfolio. For students in their second year and beyond, hours may also be earned through science research and community action projects.

Can I count my time for service requirements for school, National Honor Society, Confirmation class, etc.?
In most cases, yes! You will need to check with your school/program to see what their service requirements are. For example, some schools may let you count your volunteer interpretation hours at Brookfield Zoo, but not time spent in science workshops. Just let us know and we can provide you with appropriate documentation to get the credit you need!

I just need a few hours of service for my school. Can’t I come in and help out just for a weekend?
Unfortunately, CZS/Brookfield Zoo does not offer short term volunteer experiences due to the amount of training and time we invest in making our students successful. We encourage you to check out the Chicagoland Environmental Network website for local volunteer opportunities in nature! www.chicagoenvironment.org.

This sounds like a lot of work! How can I balance school, activities and home life to be part of this program?
We see this program as an investment in you and your future success! We ask a lot of our students because we know that this encourages them to be successful in their future pursuits. We encourage you to look at all of your commitments to determine whether or not you can balance this program with all other activities in which you are involved. We try to offer a variety of courses and opportunities all year long so that you can shape your experience to work best for you. School comes first, but we hope that this program will come shortly after for you!

What is volunteer interpretation?
All Scholars are required to put in time serving as volunteer interpreters either at Brookfield Zoo or at offsite events (at least 60 hours during the first year and at least 30 hours the second year and beyond). Essentially, interpretation means educating guests and program participants about different animals, their environments and their conservation stories. Often, this includes the use of specimens and different activities. It is a great way to learn more about the Zoo, its animals and yourself! It is a great way to build confidence, social skills and public speaking ability. Though a lot of students come in feeling shy, many teens find that this is one of the best parts of a Zoo experience! Interpretation opportunities are offered on weekends during the school year and everyday during the summer.

What volunteer opportunities are available during the summer?
Most volunteer interpretation opportunities fall during the summer months. We ask that students come in at least two days per week for a 10:00am to 3:30 shift over the summer to maintain consistency in information. Partial shifts are not permitted due to scheduling requirements here at the Zoo. There is flexibility with days to accommodate family vacations, sports and camps.

Can I volunteer more than two days a week during the summer?
Once we determine our staffing needs, we will be able to decide whether requests for extra hours can be accommodated. In years where students are permitted to volunteer for more than two days, no one will be permitted to volunteer for more than four days per week.

What volunteer opportunities are available during the school year?
We have lots of volunteer opportunities on weekends during the school year. For example, participants can help special events like Boo at the Zoo and Holiday Magic or interpret to guests on weekends.

Do you have an absence policy?
As part of a career training program, we want you to treat this experience professionally so ask that you call in and report all absences in a timely manner. Students will be limited to three no-call, no-shows before being asked to leave the program.

Do you provide transportation?
Since we have students coming to the Zoo from all over the area, we are unable to provide transportation. However, there is a Metra stop two blocks away from the zoo and bus stops at each Zoo entrance. Many courses and workshops will also be held at community sites in Chicago and surrounding suburbs to help in accessibility.

Follow this link for public transportation information.

Do you provide uniforms?
All participants receive a uniform shirt and a Zoo ID. They must supply their own khaki pants or shorts.

Will I get to take care of the animals?
No. There is no animal contact as part of our program.

I really like science better than talking to people. Can I skip the Interpretation piece and just take workshops on science research and animal care?

All students in the Scholars program must spend some time doing interpretation. This is an important career building experience. After one year in the program, you may begin participating in more focused science research activities but many students find they enjoy interpretation so much that they continue to do it for hundreds of hours beyond our requirement!

My question is not answered here. How can I get more information?

Send an e-mail to scholars@CZS.org.