WCS Education is committed to inspiring a diverse and inclusive movement of conservation advocates, including hundreds of youth aged 14 to 24 years old who enroll in programs, internships, employment, and volunteer opportunities across our five parks each year. In 2018, we launched an effort to understand our reach, characterize our youth audience, and measure program outcomes using two surveys: a demographic census and a program exit survey.

Each year, WCS Education serves about 800 youth through volunteerships, internships, and part-time employment. This number was lower in 2020 – about 550 – due to major funding and programmatic changes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Across years, however, the demographics of our youth audience has remained fairly consistent. Almost all youth – about 90% in 2020 – live in New York City and represent 80% of city ZIP codes, including all 59 designated as near or below the city’s poverty line. They represent diverse racial and ethnic groups, countries of origin, languages, and socioeconomic backgrounds. They speak a combined total of nearly 50 languages and 24% identified as LGBTQIA+.

Youth have an overwhelmingly positive experience with WCS Education, feeling that they are welcomed, appreciated, and have opportunities to learn and develop new skills. In 2020, youth reported that their program experience made them more confident communicating about science with various audiences, including colleagues and zoo and aquarium visitors, and 90% indicated that the program changed the way they think about conservation and science. Almost all intended to go to college and 70% intended to pursue a STEM career, many noting that their time at WCS strengthened their intentions and revealed the diversity of STEM career options.

Our WCS Career Lattice Report provides in-depth information about our youth audience, engagement strategies, and impact.

2021 Career Lattice Report

We also conduct research on strategies to increase STEM and conservation engagement for youth. Our projects include:

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