This summer, 11 local high school students spent eight weeks interning at the Brevard Zoo as part of a partnership with Brevard County Public Schools (BPS), Brevard Achievement Center (BAC) and Vocational Rehabilitation. The internships were vocational in nature, and each student was assigned responsibilities in one of four Zoo departments: education, landscaping, maintenance and food service.

The interns provided valuable assistance to staff and also enhanced the guest experience by repairing boardwalks, removing plant debris, supervising campers and engaging with guests at educational kiosks.

“Our goal was to set the students up for future employment through a paid internship that offers vocational experience in a real-world setting,” said Chris Martin, director of human resources at the Zoo. “These interns were treated like any other employee—they went through the full hiring process, attended staff meetings, and received CPR, water safety and youth protection training, and so on.”

“The Brevard Zoo prides itself on building partnerships that enrich our community, and this collaboration with BPS and BAC is a sterling example of such an initiative.”

The interns enjoyed the experience, even if the Florida sun was oppressive at times. Highlights included working outdoors, interacting with staff and guiding children through learning activities. On their final day, the group was treated to a hands-on “jungle encounter” featuring Dustin the sloth and the opportunity to feed Abner the anteater with slimy avocado chunks.

“I really loved this program and the work experience I got. Everyone who works at the Zoo is so happy,” said education intern Tristan.