This year, March 11-17 is AmeriCorps Week. This is a week of celebration for all things AmeriCorps, as well as a time for previous AmeriCorps members to share their stories and the impact the program has had on their lives.
So what is AmeriCorps exactly? AmeriCorps is a national community service organization with over 21,000 service sites in different nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith based groups all across America. Members commit their time to address critical community needs in the areas where their service site is located. These needs can include academics, youth mentorship, poverty, environmental sustainability, preparation for disasters or disaster relief, and much more. You can think of it like the domestic Peace Corps.
Why am I talking about AmeriCorps on the Zoo blog? Well, it’s because the Zoo is an AmeriCorps service site, and I am one of the AmeriCorps members serving here. We have a total of 14 members serving in a number of different facets throughout the Zoo. Personally, I work mostly on Zoo grounds researching visitor experiences and sharing conservation messages. Some other positions work with educating visitors and students about sustainability, corporate volunteer teams, or with the teen volunteers in our ZooTeen program.
One of the largest parts of our AmeriCorps team is bringing quality STEM education to economically disadvantaged students in the community. Many of the positions are in charge of creating lesson plans, teaching camps or overnight programs, bringing Zoo programs to schools, organizing school field trips, and more at no cost to them.
We are able to do this through the Living Classroom Education Access Fund, or LCEAF. The LCEAF allows us to bring environmental education to around 11,000 students who may never have the opportunity elsewhere. And our annual ZooGeist fundraiser for LCEAF is coming up this week!
ZooGeist is a free event hosted at Rhinegeist brewery where all of the proceeds from each purchase directly support the LCEAF. Want to show your support? Come on out to Rhinegeist this Thursday, March 15, from 6-9pm! Along with the beer, we will have animal encounters, a raffle, games and activities organized by the AmeriCorps crew, and tons of fun!
While you’re there, feel free to ask any of us about our experience with AmeriCorps. We would all love to share our stories. And if you’re interested in serving at the Zoo with AmeriCorps, check out the positions posted on the Zoo’s Job Opportunities page.