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 time at the Virginia Zoo! The summer kicks off with an exciting, jam-packed training that focuses on learning the zoo, conservation basics, ecology, and education techniques. Throughout the year, CYT participants educate zoo guests about our animals, support our Safari Camp programs, visit local organizations and participate in service projects benefiting the community, and become part of the Virginia Zoo family! 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!

New This Year

If you have applied to the CYT program in the past or are familiar with the current program, please carefully read this section. Our program structure is changing! We hope that these changes allow our program to be more accessible to all Hampton Roads teens, while providing a more robust year-round experience that prepares participants for college, careers, and more!

  • Three semesters will be available for CYTs: Summer (June-August), Fall (September-December), and Spring (February-May). Summer will be more intensive due to the nature of the program, but all semesters will provide a comparable number of volunteer service hours.
  • Summer will be required for all first-year CYTs. Either fall or spring will also be required.
  • After their first full year, teens may choose any two of the three semesters to participate. Summer (except for the mandatory training) is no longer required for returning teens.
  • Mandatory training will occur three times per year at the start of each semester.
    • Trainings will consist of volunteer skills training, professional development, scientific inquiry, teambuilding, zoo updates, and an off-site Conservation Event trip.
    • Summer training will consist of two weeks; the first week is required only for new CYTs. The second week is required for all CYTs. We will take the day off for the July 4th holiday should it fall on a weekday.
    • Fall and Spring training will consist of one weekend in September and one in February.

Vaccination Policy

In accordance with the Virginia Zoological Society’s duty to provide and maintain a workplace that is free of known hazards, we are adopting a COVID-19 Vaccination Policy to safeguard the health of our employees and their families, our customers and visitors, our animals, and the community at large from infectious diseases that may be reduced by vaccinations. In making this decision, the executive leadership team reviewed recommendations from the City of Norfolk and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and local health officials.

All Virginia Zoo employees and volunteers are required to be either fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit a negative COVID-19 test result weekly during semesters that they are volunteering and before mandatory trainings.

Conservation Youth Team volunteers are required to be fully vaccinated by their first day of training or submit a negative test result dated no more than three days prior to their first day of training if in the process of becoming vaccinated.

Volunteers who are unable to be vaccinated can choose to submit weekly COVID testing. Any volunteer whose disability or sincere religious belief prevents them from getting tested weekly should contact the human resources department to request a reasonable accommodation for consideration.

A PDF copy of the full Virginia Zoo COVID-19 Vaccination Policy will be linked in the CYT application or can be obtained by emailing

Proof of vaccination, testing results, or accommodation will not be required until after the teen is accepted into the CYT program.


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

Guide 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.

More opportunities become available to teens who are in good standing and continue in the CYT program for multiple years, including peer mentoring, community science, animal observations, and animal handling/husbandry!

What Are the Requirements?

Teen applicants should:

  • Be in high school, including incoming ninth graders, and aged 13-17
  • 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)
  • Follow the COVID-19 vaccination policy

Important Program Dates

Summer 2022 (required for First Year CYT members)

  • June 27-August 20, 2022
  • CYT Mandatory Summer Training: Monday, June 27 – Friday, July 1 AND Tuesday, July 5 – Friday, July 8
    • Week 1 required only for First Year CYTs, Week 2 required for all CYTs 
    • Summer Conservation Event: During the Week 2 of training, date TBD
  • Summer Shifts: Minimum of 2 (guide) or 3 (camp) full-day (8:30 am – 4:15 pm) shifts each week. Applicants will commit to the same days each week and must commit to every week of the program. Three absences without make-up days are allowed each semester. Additional absences will require make-up days, scheduled as much in advance as possible, to remain in good standing with the program.
    • Guide Track: Sunday – Saturday, one weekend day required
    • Camp: Monday – Friday
  • End of Summer Awards Dinner: early September, date TDB

Fall 2022/Spring 2023 (one semester required for First Year CYT members)

  • Fall: September 17-December 3
  • Fall Mandatory Training Weekend: September 17 and 18, 2022.Mandatory for all CYTs, regardless of whether they are volunteering during the fall semester.
    • Fall Conservation Event: This weekend, date TBD
  • Spring: February 25-May 20
  • Spring Mandatory Training Weekend: February 25 and 26, 2023. Mandatory for all CYTs, regardless of whether they are volunteering during the spring semester.
    • Spring Conservation Event: This weekend, date TBD
  • Fall and/or Spring Shifts: One full-day (8:30 am – 4:15 pm) shift each week*.  Applicants will commit to the same day each week and must commit to every week of the program. Three absences without make-up days are allowed each semester. Additional absences will require make-up days, scheduled as much in advance as possible, to remain in good standing with the program. *Camp shifts will not be available weekly and will depend on camp schedule.
    • Guide: Saturday or Sunday
    • Camp: Any scheduled camps, including Winter Break, Spring Break, and possible day camps. Other non-camp opportunities may be available as well.


To be considered for the Virginia Zoo’s Conservation Youth Team program, please complete the application by February 28, 2022. Invitations to interview will be sent to selected applicants by March 11, 2022. If invited, you will need to be available to attend one interview session on March 26, March 27, or March 30 (if unable to attend a weekend interview date). Final decisions will be made by April 4, 2022. Fees and paperwork will be due by April 30, 2022.


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


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


If you have any questions, please email


The application period is currently closed. Please check back here after December 1st for the link to the 2023 application!