Gratitude Report 2021 – 2022

Zoo Apprenticeship Program
Author's Note: This content is 3 years old and may not be up-to-date.
Three-year paid apprenticeship builds skills and community for area youth.

Zoo Apprenticeship Program, or ZAP, employs young people as educators at the Oregon Zoo.

ZAP teens serve for three years, receiving training and mentoring to hone their leadership and job skills and while exploring job and career opportunities.

For 22 years, ZAPs have: provided outreach to partner organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs; taught outdoor recreation skills and environmental concepts while camping at local natural areas; and held intern positions at the zoo, in areas such as the veterinary medical center, animal nutrition center and butterfly conservation lab.

Here’s what one parent had to say about her son’s experience in the ZAP program.

August 26, 2021
Pam McElwee
ZAP Program Coordinator

Dear Pam,
In 2019, my son had his first job interview, and it led to a three-year relationship he would not change for anything. The Zoo Animal Presenters program provided him with experiences and skills that will last a lifetime.

I will never forget the morning of his first outreach experience. He memorized his “part” and felt very prepared. His nervousness reminded me of every first day of school as a teacher. When I picked him up afterward, he was elated. Not only has he realized that he loves working with animals, but he also now loves working with kids.

Overnight camping, a ropes course, kayaking and day trips to the beach have resulted in my son having a full respect for his bosses and friendships with his co-workers that extend outside of the workday.

While the world became dormant during COVID-19, ZAP managed to stay alive with virtual outreaches, Zoom meetings, trainings and a hopeful plan for the future. Once things reopened, he spent more time at the zoo, and came home with stories about the curious zoo-goers and stubborn yet adorable goats.

As my son is about to start college, I can say that his ZAP experience has contributed greatly to his maturity, composure and motivation to create a solid future for himself. To see this program firsthand —
and what it does for the kids, the community and the zoo — is to see an impactful program that needs to endure and thrive.

Thank you for what you have done for him, and for the countless people whose lives have been touched by ZAP.


Harbor seals Kaya, Tongass and Atuun are working on a fish puzzle built by volunteers using a design from colleagues at New England Aquarium.

Matching gifts are an easy way to double (sometimes triple!) your donation to the Oregon Zoo Foundation. If you’re planning to make a gift or purchase a membership, or already have, your employer may financially match your donation. Check with your human resources department or email to learn more.