WCS is committed to inspiring a diverse and inclusive movement of conservation advocates. The WCS Career Lattice is our integrated career pathways program that supports the 1,900 youth aged 14 to 24 years old who enroll in volunteer, internship, and part-time employment opportunities at our five parks each year. The evaluation of the Career Lattice has been ongoing since 2018 and informs strategies for connecting, developing, and advancing WCS youth.

Evaluation Questions

· How has the diversity of youth participating in Career Lattice opportunities changed over time?

· How does the Career Lattice support youth skill development and career awareness?

· How has the Career Lattice impacted youths’ career trajectories at WCS and beyond?

· How has the Career Lattice’s work to connect, develop, and advance NYC youth impacted WCS’s business and mission?


We collect a variety of data to address the evaluation questions:

  • Demographic Census and Exit Survey. We administer an anonymous demographic census to youth to understand their backgrounds and track changes in demographics over time. We also administer an anonymous exit survey to youth to understand the impact of the positions, including supervision, knowledge and skill development, professional development experiences, feeling of inclusion at WCS, and career goals.
  • Supervisor Exit Survey and Focus Groups. We administer a survey and facilitate focus groups with youth supervisors to provide feedback on their experience, including processes, support, and self-efficacy supporting youth. Findings inform our supervisor resources and professional development workshops.
  • Youth Trajectories. We developed reports for tracking youth movement into new positions at WCS to understand how the Career Lattice supports young people in their careers. We are building an alumni engagement program to allow us to remain connected with youth even after they leave WCS, to provide ongoing support and collect longitudinal data on next steps.

Major Findings

The Career Lattice has grown to support 677 youth in Education Department positions in 2018, growing to over 1,900 youth across WCS in 2023. Almost all Career Lattice youth – 92% – live in New York City and represent 80% of city ZIP codes and 146 New York City public high schools. Youth represent diverse racial and ethnic groups, countries of origin, languages, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Thirty-two percent identify as LGBTQIA+. They speak a combined total of more than 30 languages and 32% are first-generation college students.

Youth have an overwhelmingly positive experience at WCS, feeling that they are welcomed, appreciated, and have opportunities to learn and develop new skills. Youth enrolled in our volunteer and internship programs 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 their program changed the way they think about conservation and science.

Upon completion of their time with us, 60% reported that they planned to pursue a STEM career and 76% would like to work for WCS in the future. The number of youth who advance into new roles at WCS has grown annually, and included more than 300 youth in 2023.

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

View the Career Lattice Reports

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

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