Conservation Youth Team

The Virginia Zoo’s Conservation Youth Team (CYT) program is a high school volunteer and youth development program that was created for teens who want to learn more about animals and conservation, earn community service hours, and spend their summer at the Virginia Zoo! The summer kicks off with an exciting, jam packed week of training that focuses on learning the zoo, conservation basics, ecology, and education techniques. Throughout the summer, CYT participants educate zoo guests about our animals, support our Summer Safari Camp programs, travel to different local organizations to help with conservation projects, and become part of the Virginia Zoo community! As a member of the Conservation Youth Team, teens will develop important job and life skills, build self-confidence, earn community service hours, and learn about what they can do to help our environment!

What opportunities are available?

CYT offers two “tracks” to first year applicants: Guide Track and Camp Track:


CYT participants in this track hone their education and public speaking skills while providing enriching guest experiences. Guide Track CYT participants will become familiar with Zoo stories and animals while encouraging and sharing their passion for conservation with Zoo guests! Applicants to this track should have an interest in educating and communicating animal and conservation information with visitors of all ages and backgrounds.

Camp Track 

CYT participants in this track will mentor campers and assist our Camp instructors with our Summer Safari Camp Programs. Camp Track CYT participants will learn how to lead games and manage groups while assisting in activities such as learning labs, zoo tours, behind-the-scenes experiences and animal encounters! Applicants should have an interest in mentoring younger students and gaining teaching experience.

Time commitment:

  • CYT Training: Monday, June 22, 2020 – Friday, June 26, 2020
  • Shifts: Four or five consecutive eight-hour shifts (8:30 am – 4:15 pm) every other week. Applicants will select one of the following day groups. Applicants must commit to every week of the program.
  • Guide Track 1: Sunday/Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday
    • July 5-8, July 19-22, August 2-5, August 16-19
  • Guide Track 2: Wednesday/Thursday/Friday/Saturday
    • July 8-11, July 22-25, August 5-8, August 19-22
  • Camp: Monday – Friday
    • July 6-10, July 20-24, August 3-7, August 17-21
  • Conservation Events: Throughout the summer; dates TBD
  • End of Summer Awards Dinner: End of September, date TDB
  • End of Summer CYT Overnight Snooze (optional): Following the Awards Dinner, date TBD

What are the requirements? 

Teen applicants should:

  • Indicate a track preference on their application
  • Be in high school (17 years of age or under), including incoming ninth graders
  • Demonstrate an eagerness to learn and to work with people of all ages and backgrounds
  • Be available to attend all important program dates listed
  • Be willing to volunteer for eight-hour days (8:30 am – 4:15 pm) as assigned (approximately 150 hours for the summer)


  • Application for 2020 Summer Session opens December 1, 2019
  • If you would like more information, you can attend an Information Session at the Virginia Zoo to learn more about the Conservation Youth Team:
    • January 11, 2020 from 1:30 – 2:30 pm at the Virginia Zoo
    • February 12, 2020 from 6:30 – 7:30 pm at the Jordan-Newby Anchor Branch Library at Broadcreek (1425 Norchester Ave., Norfolk, VA 23504)
    • February 15, 2020 from 2 pm – 3 pm at the Virginia Zoo
  • Application and Recommendation Form due: February 28, 2020
  • Potential Interviews: March 25, 28, or 29, 2020 (If selected, applicants will need to attend one interview session in person)
  • Parent/Guardian Orientation: June 10, 2020 from 6 pm – 7 pm OR June 13, 2020 from 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
  • Summer Volunteer Dates as listed above in Track Opportunities
  • If selected for the Conservation Youth Team 2020 program, additional volunteer opportunities are available to CYT participants who have time to volunteer during the school year and subsequent summers! CYT participants can assist in special events at the Zoo, support a variety of education programs, or interpret exhibits for guests. CYT participants cultivate lasting relationships with their peers, adult volunteers and Zoo staff, while developing career and life skills. No matter which of these adventures students choose, they’ll take home the memories of a lifetime!

Is there a cost?

If you are selected to participate in the Conservation Youth Team, there is a required $100 registration fee due by April 27th. This amount covers your Zoo uniform shirts, name tag, and additional program materials.


The Virginia Zoo offers a scholarship for first year applicants to the Conservation Youth Team. The scholarship will cover the registration fee of $100. Applicants must fill out the final question on the CYT application to be considered for this scholarship.

Scholarship recipients will be notified no later than April 1st, 2020.

How do I apply for the CYT program?

The application for the 2020 Summer Session is now closed. If you applied for this session, please check your email for messages from us soon!