News Release
Contact: Sondra Katzen, Public Relations, 708.688.8351,

July 20, 2016


Registration Now Open to Attend Chicago Zoological Society’s
Teen Conservation Leadership Conference
Opportunity for Chicagoland Teens to Prepare for Life after High School

Brookfield, Ill. – Life after high school may have many teens wondering what lies ahead, from deciding how to pay for college to what career to pursue. To help Chicagoland teens prepare for life after high school, the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, is hosting the Teen Conservation Leadership Conference 2016 from August 3-5 at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

The conference, which the Society hopes will attract 400 to 500 attendees, will expose teens to careers in conservation and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). During the first two days, students can attend informational workshops, clinics, and panel discussions about topics such as animal welfare, zoo design, the palm oil crisis, and climate change.

“This is a unique opportunity for teens who have participated in STEM and conservation-related programming at various Chicagoland institutions to showcase their work and, for those interested; to find out how they can prepare for their future,” said Luis Mendez, manager of high school and college programs for the Society.

Teens will have the opportunity to learn about exciting careers in conservation and STEM from experts, including:

  • John Andrews, associate population biologist, Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Population Management Center, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago
  • Racquel Ardisana, animal care specialist and alumni of the Chicago Zoological Society’s high school program, Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield
  • Debbie Clemens, senior coordinator of the Advanced Inquiry Program, Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield
  • Andre Copeland, manager of interpretive programs for the Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield
  • Minelia Hermsdorf, animal care specialist and alumni of the Chicago Zoological Society’s high school program, Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield
  • Julian Kidd, network operations manager at The Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago and executive director and founder of Fishin' Buddies, Chicago
  • Sohali Murad, professor of geothermal energy, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago
  • Ken Ramirez, executive vice-president and chief training officer of Karen Pryor Clicker Training, Chicago
  • Catherine Razal, animal behavior researcher, Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield
  • Jazmin Rios, coordinator of wildlife management for the Urban Wildlife Institute at Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago
  • Alissa D. Rupp, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, architect and principal of The Portico Group, Seattle
  • Carlo Segre, Illinois Institute of Technology, Battery Power as Alternative Energy, Chicago
  • Dr. Paula Skye Tallman, post-doctoral researcher, The Field Museum, Chicago
  • Kim Smith, vice president-headquarters operations, International Crane Foundation, WI
  • Stuart Strahl, president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield
  • Angela Sullivan, director of strategic initiatives for the Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield
  • Henry Briggs Wilson, Garden Eel Project, Shedd Aquarium, Chicago
  • Ashley Wurth, researcher for Urban Coyote Program, Chicago

There will also be a Readiness Expo that will give participants the opportunity to meet with college representatives, potential employers, and scholarship organizations, among other involvement opportunities. Representatives from organizations scheduled to have exhibit booths at the conference include Aurora University, Brighton Park Neighborhood, Chicago Youth Alliance for Climate Action, Eden Place Nature Center, Fiore Nursery and Landscape, Institute of Environmental Sustainability at Loyola University Chicago, John G. Shedd Aquarium, Life Directions, Lincoln Park Zoo, Public Communications Inc., Southern Illinois University, Rasmussen College, The Field Museum, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and Wild Indigo Audubon.

The final day of the conference, which will take place at Brookfield Zoo, will include guided tours by the Society’s King Scholars, two exhibit design workshops hosted by Emily Howard of PVGA, and box lunches served at the Pavilions with some special animal encounters. The conference concludes with a barbecue dinner during which teens will be invited to stay for the zoo’s Summer Nights event featuring live music and other family-themed entertainment.

The conference is hosted by the Chicago Zoological Society’s King Conservation Science Scholars Program, which provides diverse high school students with the opportunity to make a difference in their communities while preparing for their future. With a focus on developing well-rounded conservation-minded individuals, the program uses engaging and interactive learning to connect students with wildlife and nature. King Scholars participate in 120 hours of community service, some of which is coordinated through the program and the rest through their own community action project, which they initiate based on their individual passions and interests. Students also have the opportunity to work on internal projects at Brookfield Zoo, get a behind-the-scenes perspective of life at the zoo, take science elective classes, participate in workshops in career readiness and college readiness, and develop crucial leadership skills through team-building activities. The program currently enrolls 255 students from more than 110 high schools from throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. King Scholars was established with a lead gift from the King Family Foundation and is also currently supported by the Astellas USA Foundation; Baxter International Inc.; the Leo S. Guthman Fund; Nalco, an Ecolab Company; UL; and Wells Fargo.

To attend the conference, participants must be between the ages of 13 and 19 years. A donation of $10 per person is suggested, which will contribute to the Society’s conservation initiatives and programs, as well as to the purchase of a commemorative conference plaque that will be displayed in the Hamill Family Wild Encounters exhibit at Brookfield Zoo.

For more information, including individual and group registration, visit or email


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About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located off First Avenue between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service. For further information, visit


Sondra Katzen
Media Relations Manager
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071


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