Bridging the Gap connects high school students interested in conservation science, zoology, marine science, ecology, or biology, directly with professionals in those fields. Receive hands-on experience, mentoring, and obtain information in areas including educational planning, financial aid options, effective job search methods, resume building, networking, job referral, and more. *
See firsthand what Bridging the Gap is all about! Read this article.
The program consists of 3 cohorts of 50 students each. Students are selected on a variety of criteria including interest in STEM, willingness to commit to all phases of the project, and school and parental support.
Bridging the Gap's programming is grouped into four phases:
Phase I: School-to-Career Institute
The School-to-Career Institute is an intensive learning program which seeks to introduce participants to the variety of science careers in zoos and aquariums. Students will attend 11 sessions that include conducting animal behavior studies, designing a zoo exhibit, and learning about the variety of zoo and aquarium careers by meeting with WCS staff.
Phase II: Mentoring
To increase networking opportunities and communication between students in our first two cohorts and WCS staff members, eight monthly community mentoring sessions were conducted at each WCS facility. Topics of discussion included: job readiness, college preparation, visualization techniques and goal setting methods, interviewing, and advocacy skills.
Phase III: Career Building Clinic (College Bootcamp)
Students will develop a skill acquisition plan that will include high school course selection, interview coaching, college applications, scholarships/financial aid, and campus visits.
Phase IV: Internships/Employment
WCS offers a variety of paid internship experiences for Bridging the Gap participants that include hands-on work experience and job shadowing opportunities.
Updates from Bridging the Gap
- 25 of our 48 Cohort 1 students have been accepted into and/or will attend 17 different colleges and universities such as SUNY Plattsburgh, Mercy College, Penn State, Seton Hall, Saint Johns, Kingsborough Community College and more!
- For service continuity and engagement, first and second cohort students will continue participation in all program activities to interact with and motivate third cohort students and to maintain the mentoring relationships cultivated with program staff and mentors.
- 52 students from 18 schools successfully completed the School-to-Career Institute and Career Building Clinic (aka College Bootcamp).
- Students are currently engaged in various internships and pursuing additional educational and occupational opportunities at various WCS facilities and in their communities.
- At Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and Queens Zoo, students are learning firsthand what it takes to become a Zookeeper by working side-by-side with current animal department staff.
- Three students are working one-on-one with staff at the New York Aquarium's Aquatic Animal Health Center by assisting them with research and testing.
- A student from the Central Park Zoo is working with our architects, exhibit designers, and graphic artists to develop exhibit plans for vacant space at the New York Aquarium and the Central Park Zoo.
- A few students at each of the WCS parks are working with the summer day camp to learn about what it takes to be a Conservation Educator.
- 51 students from 27 different schools make up our third and final cohort of students.
- During the School-to-Career Institute, students learned about zoo careers through hands-on activities. Students also explored principles of urban ecology and green design through visiting green locations in the city like the Highline, Queens Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and the Stillwell Ave. train station at Coney Island. Using Manahatta2409, a program created by WCS's Eric Sanderson, students also created visions for the city to increase biodiversity and decrease carbon emissions.
- Community mentoring sessions are underway. Between all 5 sites, we have 26 staff members who attend monthly sessions where they share their career experiences and give advice to our students.
- The Career Building Clinic (college bootcamp) will begin during the winter.
- A few students have already begun their internships- assisting at Queens Zoo and Prospect Park Zoo during special events like Boo at the Zoo. All other internships will start in the New Year.
*Bridging the Gap is supported through a generous $1.1 million dollar grant from The National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent federal agency.