Zoo Update from Director and CEO Denise M. Verret – February 2023
Black History Month is a time when we honor the contributions of African Americans in American society, despite the adversity they have faced. While we use this month to amplify Black voices and share their stories of success and triumph, it also provides us with another opportunity to reflect on our mission and our efforts to support all communities here at the Los Angeles Zoo year-round.
To help foster a safe space for all Angelenos, including African American youth, the Los Angeles Zoo has expanded its programming and partnerships to create more meaningful and active connections to nature and wildlife. The Zoo has established its first-ever Teen Council for Conservation, which is composed of high school-aged youth from the diverse communities of Los Angeles. These students engage with our Zoo staff on a nine-month journey, focusing on issues surrounding conservation and social and environmental justice with the goal of strengthening their leadership skills, increasing their understanding of conservation and community building, and empowering them to enact meaningful change in themselves, the Zoo, and their communities.
The Zoo also offers opportunities for college students and this summer will be hosting its second cohort of paid interns: young adults from systemically excluded identities and communities who have a passion for the Zoo and conservation fields. This ten-week program provides students the opportunity to work directly with industry professionals at the Zoo on real-world projects, then summarize their practical knowledge and present on their experience at the conclusion of their internship.
Finally, the Zoo continues to expand its partnerships with nonprofit organizations, like Outward Bound Adventures (OBA), that are invested in over-excluded communities. We ensure youth from these communities have access to nature, environmental education, leadership development, and preparation for careers in the conservation profession. Partnerships like this are part of our continued work and mission to ensure that the Zoo—and all outdoor spaces—are open and accessible to all communities.
The Los Angeles Zoo will continue to work and co-create with our partners and all of you to foster a space of inclusion for everyone, not just during Black History Month but in every month of the year.
Author: Denise Verret