Topeka Zoo Youth Council

Teenagers work towards conservation and fundraising at the Topeka Zoo.

Topeka Zoo Youth Council

Abbey Manzanares, Reporter

The Topeka Zoo Youth Council has the ultimate goal of making the community a better place to live. 


“We’re pretty much a council just consisted of teenagers who help with volunteering around the zoo because there’s a lot of events at the zoo and sometimes there are booths that don’t get covered as much. We talk about conservation topics because while zoo employees have to worry about the logistics of an event we pretty much just focus on telling the people who come up to us about why zoos are important and what zoos can do,” Ananya Vasu, vice president, said. “(We talk about) environmental issues around the world and we also donate money that we make from our events, like the yellow fun run, for conservation efforts. Our most recent is the ornate box turtle project, which we donated $1000 to.”


The council started in 2015 and has progressed from there. None of the members have been there since the beginning but they’ve seen an excellent amount of growth within the last two years. They’ve gotten better at organizing and have homestead more fundraisers/events.


“Currently we’re working on trying to get other zoos around us to create their own youth council or we’re trying to collaborate with the youth council that they already have, so that’s one thing we’re trying to do,” Kayla Schinkel, council president, said.  “We also go do monarch butterfly tagging and try to track their migration patterns. Hopefully, we will be working with the ornate box turtle, our state reptile, a little more hands on.”


They are currently working on their Party of the Planet event that will take place at the zoo. They have started working on the yellow fun run already, but the event isn’t until July. They are constantly discussing events for summer that have not been fully locked down yet but are on the radar. At the moment the recruitment of members is their biggest priority.


“Right now we are accepting applications, we have an online application that we’ve been sending out to schools so you can check in with your school or you can email us or call the zoo and we’ll send out that application,” Schinkel said. “We will be accepting year round, however our official wave right now ends March 31 so we haven’t decided a day for interviews quite yet.”


They call it the wave because that is when they accept the most applications. Although they do accept year-round, they are hoping to add around seven members by the end of March. They often go to Topeka schools during lunch to recruit people. Right now the council is mostly students from Washburn Rural. They are hoping that going into the schools will get them a more diverse council. 


“I feel like a lot of our previous presentations have been very formal when in reality I feel like we’re very casual. We do a good job trying to get done what we get done, but at the same time we’re a very friendly group of people and we hang out and do things and it’s a really fun time,” Tyler  Norsworthy said. “We sometimes seem to be perceived as a very official thing where in reality it’s more like a bunch of friends coming together to do things we care about.”


A student must be in eighth grade to apply and once they graduate from high school they are an alumni. They have two adult supervisors that guide them through all their projects, but don’t do any of the actual work. Their main goal is to showcase that Topeka has many good qualities that shouldn’t be overlooked by the negative aspects.