The Kansas City Zoo & Aquarium VolunTEEN program creates accessible opportunities for young adults to develop sustainable lifestyles and humane perspectives. This comprehensive program promotes the personal and professional development of teenagers and develops teens to become empowered community leaders with experienced workplace values.

We are seeking mature, responsible teens with an aptitude for leadership. Applicants should enjoy working with the public and show interest in animals and conservation. VolunTEENs will lead discussions and demonstrate activities to groups of children and adults, so good communication skills are a must. Enthusiasm, confidence, and a positive attitude are required!

Applications for the 2024-2025 VolunTEEN Class are now closed.

Applications for the 2025-2026 VolunTEEN Class are expected to open in November or December of 2024. Please check back for updates!

Time Commitment

The VolunTEEN program is a year round program with hour requirements broken into three distinct seasons: summer (May - August), fall (September - December), and spring (January - April). Hour requirements for each season are determined by the teen's pathway.


The VolunTEEN program offers opportunities through year long pathways. These paths provide teens unique opportunities and develop their expertise in specific areas - communication, education, technology, animal care, and leadership. Teens apply for their desired pathway at the beginning of each year. First year volunTEENs apply to be a Trailblazer or DigiTeen. After their first year, teens may apply for other pathways.


Trailblazers spend most of their time in the Zoo, talking to guests about our animals. This pathway introduces teens to zoological careers and develops their communication and public speaking skills.


DigiTeens spend most of their time working remotely on online assignments. This pathway builds teens skills based on their unique interests in the field of graphic design, data analysis, and writing. DigiTeens must also participate in their local community in line with the Zoo's mission. Community service examples include volunteering at a local animal shelter, coordinating cleaning a local stream, or other environmentally beneficial opportunities.

Junior Interpreter

Junior Interpreters build on their communication skills gained from completing the Trailblazer pathway. These teens act as mentors to new Trailblazers and interpret at new animal areas. This pathway continues refining communication skills and promotes leadership within the program.

Junior Counselor

Junior Counselors use their knowledge gained from completing the Trailblazer pathway. These teens assist zoo camp counselors with tours, activities, and lessons. This pathway continues to teach teens more about career opportunities and gives teens experience in the education field.


EnviroTeens build on their experiences gained from completing the DigiTeen pathway. These teens continue to work remotely with a greater emphasis in their desired field. They also serve as mentor to new DigiTeens and help in the creation of assignments and virtual opportunities for the program.

Junior Caretaker

Junior Caretakers gain experience caring for animals at the Kansas City Zoo & Aquarium. The number of teens accepted to this pathway is limited. Working alongside animal care specialists, these teens assist in the cleaning, feeding, and enriching our animals' daily routines. This pathway focuses on exploring animal care focused fields and practical career experience.

Teen Advisory Council

The Teen Advisory Council (TAC) acts as a leadership team for the VolunTEEN program. The number of teens accepted to this pathway is limited. These teens help in planning activities, opportunities, and fundraising for the program. This pathway focuses on leadership and networking teens with zoological career opportunities.

VolunTEEN Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How old do you have to be to apply?

A: To apply, you must be in 8th-12th grade at the time of application.

Q: What is a VolunTEEN pathway?

A: Pathways are designated titles and responsibilities for a VolunTEEN. At the beginning of each year, Teens apply for a pathway for the following year. The VolunTEEN pathway lasts from May through April of the following year.

Q: As a first year Teen, what pathways are available?

A: All first year teens begin the program as either a Trailblazer or DigiTEEN. Trailblazers primarily focus in on grounds interpretation, talking to guests about our animals. DigiTEENs perform as a virtual assistants, helping with data collection and program development.

Q: After my first year as a Teen, what pathways are available?

A: As Teens gain experience in the program, additional pathways such as Junior Interpreter, Junior Counselor, Junior Caretaker, and more become available. Junior Interpreters interact with guests at a greater variety of animals and help train Trailblazers. Junior Counselors assist the Zoo's Camp Counselors with camp activities. Junior Caretakers help care for animals alongside the Zoo's Animal Care Specialists.

Q: How long does the VolunTEEN program last?

A: The VolunTEEN program is a year long program with three seasons: Summer (May-August), Fall (September-December), and Spring (January-April). Each season has its own hour requirements in order to participate in the next season.

Q: How many hours are required to be a VolunTEEN?

A: Hours depend on the season and selected pathway. Summer seasons require more hours than Fall and Spring. In-person pathways (Trailblazers) require more hours than digital pathways (DigiTEENs).

Q: I'm currently a senior, can I apply?

A: Yes! You will only be able to attend the Summer season, but you may participate in the VolunTEEN program as a recent high school senior graduate.

Ready to be a VolunTEEN?

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