Volunteen Program

The Volunteen Program is designed for students ages 14-17, and is an opportunity for teenagers to have fun volunteering while learning about the environment, wildlife conservation, community engagement and professionalism. Volunteens develop their social skills, identity and independence and can make a difference with causes they are knowledgeable and passionate about.

The Volunteen Program is designed to promote the personal and professional development of teenagers so that they become leaders in animal science and conservation education. Activities in which Volunteens are involved include Exhibit Interpretation Area Service, Educational Program Leadership, Individual Interest Enrichment Opportunities, Professional Development, and Volunteer Appreciation. Continue reading below to learn more about the many experiences Volunteens have as part of the program, while learning what it means to serve!

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Exhibit Interpretation Area Service
Volunteens make up the bulk of their volunteer hours as Exhibit Interpreters. Volunteens receive training on nine animal habitats in their first year of the Volunteen Program. Some animal trainings change from year to year, while others stay in the rotation as beloved favorites throughout the years! Volunteens learn animal information directly from our animal care and education staff during Volunteen Training and through use of the Volunteen Training Book. Exhibit Interpreters share biological information and stories about our animals as well as conservation messages with the Zoo’s guests. Volunteens not only inspire our guests to understand the purpose of zoos and become involved in animal conservation, but Volunteens also gain public speaking practice and skills!

Public Events also make up a significant portion of Volunteens’ yearly hour commitment. Volunteens run themed educational activities at the Zoo’s events. Some of our Volunteens’ favorite events are Endangered Species Day, Play the Animal Way, and Boo at the Zoo! The activities run by Volunteens vary with the event and change from year-to-year, but Volunteens can always expect to engage with guests of all ages and to take part in the fun on these special days to support the mission of Zoo Atlanta.

Educational Program Leaders
Zoo Atlanta’s Safari Camp is another service area in which Volunteens contribute many volunteer hours. As Safari Camp Assistants, Volunteens aid Camp Counselors throughout the week of Camp during summer break and other school breaks throughout the year. Safari Camp Assistants learn about science education and form mentorship relationships with Safari Camp staff. Volunteens engage campers in fun games and hands-on activities about animals at Zoo Atlanta, help campers with their projects and presentations, and are sure to have a great time with the kids and counselors!

As Education Assistants, Volunteens promote their program and speak to potential new Volunteens about their own experience and the benefits of the Volunteen Program by presenting and engaging with peers at Volunteen Preview Night, Interviews and Orientations. Every June, Volunteens can help with their favorite event of all: the annual week-long Volunteen Training!

Individual Interest Enrichment Opportunities
Enrichment Opportunities make up smaller portions of a Volunteen’s total service, but these include: Animal Enrichment Team, Horticulture Team, Creative Memoir Team, the Animal Nutrition Kitchen and the Husbandry Aide Program. These opportunities give Volunteens an individualized experience as a Zoo Atlanta Volunteer, and their understanding of how zoos operate increases.
At Enrichment Team meetings, Volunteens work alongside Docents, Adult Volunteers and Family Volunteers to build enrichment items for our animals. Enrichment is the dynamic process of enhancing animal environments within the context of the animals’ behavioral biology and natural histories. Enrichment includes activities, objects, foods, experiences and more that encourage natural behaviors and responses.

Horticulture Team meets once every other month, and Volunteens work with Docents and Adult Volunteers on a variety of tasks such as spreading mulch, removing weeds, and laying pine straw. Though this service option occurs less frequently, it’s certainly an opportunity to literally get your hands dirty!
Creative Memoir Team is for students who have an interest or talent in photography, videography and other media. These Volunteens capture our Volunteens in action during events or on regular weekend days! Photos and videos may be used in PowerPoints, Volunteen Training Books, and more.

Volunteens who return to the program for an additional year(s) are eligible to volunteer in the Animal Nutrition Kitchen and as Husbandry Aides. In the kitchen, Volunteens may work with Adult Volunteers and Zoo Atlanta staff to prepare diets for our animal population. Volunteens may be chosen to serve as Husbandry Aides to our Petting Zoo team after completing required training. In this advanced service area, Volunteens benefit personally and professionally from evaluations and feedback given by keeper staff and from the mentor relationships formed with these positive role models.

Professional Development
As Zoo Atlanta Volunteers, Volunteens gain job-readiness skills and preparation for college. Volunteens gain interview practice, meet potential references, and attend up to five professional development workshops offered throughout the year. Volunteens learn professionalism through interactions with Zoo Atlanta staff, visits to off-site facilities, and presentations from guest speakers and by attending workshops to polish their resumes and cover letters, which are required for Volunteen reapplications.

Volunteer Appreciation
The Volunteen Program hosts Social Events and Educational Field Trips throughout the year to encourage Volunteens to form new friendships, receive recognition for their volunteer service, and to connect to other Volunteens and the mission of Zoo Atlanta. These events may include deeper learning opportunities on subjects of interest to Volunteens presented by Zoo Atlanta staff, visits to other nonprofit conservation organizations in or around Atlanta, or simply a time to just hang out with other Volunteens and have fun! By attending these events, Volunteens strengthen their social skills and foster their personal development.


Orientation Session: April 28 or May 5
Mandatory Training: June 4-8

14-17 years old


  • Must be 14-17 years old by June 1, 2018
  • Be truly interested in making Volunteening a number one extracurricular activity of the year.
  • This program requires a one-year commitment.
  • Be willing to take a Tuberculosis Skin Test (PPD Type). If selected, he/she must submit a negative Tuberculosis Skin Test (PPD Type) by June 1, 2018, and Tuberculosis Skin Tests are required each year the Volunteen is active in the program.
  • Attend one Orientation Session with a parent or guardian, April 29 or May 5.
  • Attend all five days of the mandatory training, June 4-8 (no makeup training will be offered). 
  • Wear appropriate attire at all times, which includes khaki bottoms, closed-toed shoes, the provided Volunteen T-shirt, and name badge. ​
  • Teens are expected to have:
    ◦ 100 hours completed during the summer term – June 1 to August 31, 2018
    ◦ 30 hours completed during the fall term – September 1 to December 31, 2018
    ◦ 30 hours completed during the spring term – January 1 to May 31, 2019.
  • Pay an Orientation Fee of $30. This fee provides the Volunteen with a T-shirt, name badge and water bottle, and will help to defray orientation and training costs.

Important dates for 2018 – 2019

  • Come learn more about our program! Volunteen Preview Night – February 1, 2018 (RSVP required: email teenvolunteer@zooatlanta.org)
  • Volunteen Applications and all required materials are due on Friday March 2, 2018 by 5 p.m.  .
  • Volunteen Interviews (by invitation only) – Saturday, March 17 OR Sunday, March 25.
  • Orientation for Volunteens and parents – April 29 OR May 5, 2017
  • Volunteen Training dates – June 4-8, 2017

To apply:

All new applicants must fill out an online application form with minimal help from parents or others. Please be sure to double-check all contact information, including emails, cell phone and parent contacts, as we will use this information to contact you regarding your application status! Carefully and thoughtfully answer all essay questions independently.

Volunteen Application Form

One (1) of your science teachers who knows you best should complete the Science Teacher Reference Form. If you are enrolled in homeschool, your parent can complete this form if they are your science teacher. DO NOT have a teacher of any other subject fill out this form, as these will not be accepted. You or your teacher can mail, fax, or email this form to the Volunteen Supervisor.

Science Teacher Reference Form

In addition, submit one (1) letter written by an adult that knows you well and is NOT a family member and is NOT one of your teachers. Examples of potential recommenders includes coaches, family friends, religious leaders, employers, extracurricular activity leaders or others! A Letter of Recommendation must be in letter form (NOT the Science Teacher Reference Form).

You may also use the Volunteen Application Checklist to ensure you have submitted all required materials. You are not required to submit the checklist with your application. You will receive an email confirming your application is complete when all materials have been received (please allow a few days after submitting your materials for your application to be processed).

Volunteen Application Checklist

These documents must be postmarked by March 2, 2018, at 5 p.m. for the application to be considered. They may be sent to:

  • Mail: Volunteen Program C/O Rachel Whitmire, Zoo Atlanta, 800 Cherokee Avenue SE Atlanta, GA 30315-1440
  • Email: teenvolunteer@zooatlanta.org
  • Fax: 404-624-5806

Due to the competitive nature of this program and in fairness to those who comply, only applications submitted by the March 2 deadline will be considered. Those who do not meet the deadline are encouraged to try again the following year.

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