Q&A with a Virginia Zoo CYT

Q| Name and Grade
A| My name is Miah Domel and I am currently a junior at Princess Anne High School.
Q| Favorite animal
A| My favorite animal at the Zoo is a tie between the Red pandas and our Asiatic black bears.
Q| What track did you participate in (camp or guide) during Summer 2015? And what are the most important skills you learned from the program?
A| I participated in the Guide Track, and I absolutely loved it. I learned many valuable skills from the program, but found opening up and learning how to approach visitors was one of the most important skills that I acquired.
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Q| What was your favorite part/best memory about the CYT Program?
A| My favorite part about the CYT program was getting extremely close to my track mates, and learning so much about the animals and conservation of the environment. My best memories from the Summer were on our last day of training when we competed against other tracks in a photo scavenger hunt around the Zoo. We also visited the Virginia Beach Aquarium. It was very interesting talking with the Aquarium’s youth volunteers, discussing the similarities and differences between the two programs.
 One other fond memory was during our last day of training, when my track mates and I built our first major animal enrichment project. My team worked so well together, collaborated all of our ideas and created a giant tree with animals painted on the bottom. When we finished, we added our handprints on the trunk of the tree and it was absolutely beautiful. There was such a sense of accomplishment, making it an important moment for our track ­– from that moment on we were as thick as thieves for the rest of the summer.
 Q| How has the CYT program influenced your personal and academic life?
A| The CYT program influenced my life in many ways, but mostly it helped me to open up and discover who I was as a person. It was also a crucial step in making friends after a very difficult move for my family from North Carolina to Virginia. Also, I am now very aware of the impact I have on the environment and what I can do to ensure its safety and maintain its health. From an academic standpoint, I’m much more knowledgeable about animals in general, endangered species, and the problem with climate change and the palm oil industry. And since I have this information, I can help spread it to others in order to help make a difference with global warming and conservation of the environment. Another bonus to being a member of the ConservationYouth Team is that you can add it to your resume, college applications, and use the volunteer hours for what your school requires.
Q| If you could give anyone applying for the CYT program some advice, what would you tell them?
A| A piece of advice I would give to all of the first-years coming into the program is to be yourself. It’s an entirely new group of people full of others who don’t know anyone, so don’t be afraid to let loose because your track mates will be some of your closest friends over the summer. Make sure to take pictures, absorb all the information that you can, take every opportunity to grow as a person, share all of your knowledge about the animals and the environment, and never ever underestimate the power of your water bottle and hat!

ABOUT the conservation youth team (CYT) AT THE VIRGINIA ZOO

The Virginia Zoo’s CYT is a youth development program for high schoolers that provides important volunteer services to the Zoo, our guests, and our communities. During a fun and intense two-week training at the beginning of summer, teens learn their way around the Zoo, the basics of conservation and ecology, and how to interpret to Zoo guests. For the rest of the summer CYT participants provide exhibit interpretation for Zoo guests or support summer Safari Camp programs. For more information on applying to the Conservation Youth Team, click here.