Make a difference in the natural world and unlock your wild potential

Applications Now Open!

Attention teens grades 9-12! If you are passionate about animal stewardship and conservation and want to play an active role in shaping the Phoenix Zoo’s youth programming while developing your skills as a leader, consider applying for the Trailblazers Youth Advisory Council. 

Trailblazers gives young leaders the unique opportunity to actively shape engagement and conservation initiatives that resonate with youth interests. Trailblazers also engage in conservation service-projects in their communities while building professional and career skills that will help put them on the path to becoming the next generation of conservation stewards and advocates.

Trailblazers Full-Color Badge

Want to learn more about this program? Join us at one of our virtual informational sessions! 

Each informational session will be approximately one hour and will cover both the Trailblazers program and the ZooTeens program. Advanced registration is required. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Thursday, April 4  |  4 – 5 p.m.

Tuesday, May 14  |  4 – 5 p.m.

About the Trailblazers Youth Advisory Council

The Trailblazers meet monthly at the Phoenix Zoo and participate in a variety of activities such as:

  • Exploration of current and potential learning and engagement programs to provide input on how to create innovative, relevant and youth-focused programs that align with the Phoenix Zoo’s educational and conservation goals
  • Developing communication strategies for reaching and engaging youth from all backgrounds
  • Being an advocate for the natural world by sharing educational and conservation opportunities and motivating other youth to become involved
  • Helping plan and execute Phoenix Zoo youth engagement programs, such as the ZooTeens volunteering program and the Teen Career Conference
  • Leadership and team-building activities to strengthen core professional skills

But Trailblazers don’t just talk about how to get youth connected with the natural world and involved in conservation; they lead by example! Trailblazers also work on service-learning projects during the program year. For example, the 2023-2024 cohort of Trailblazers designed and built behavioral enrichment for the Zoo’s Andean bear, another team created a plan to revitalize the Zoo’s butterfly garden and the last team worked in collaboration with the AZ Game & Fish Department to conduct surveys of invasive apple snails and design an awareness campaign for how to combat them.

Our Trailblazers Youth Advisory Council application is open to all students in Grades 9-12 for school year 2024-2025. Applicants must commit to the program for a minimum of one year and be able to attend all scheduled meetings (see Time Commitment section). Applicants should have a passion for animal stewardship and conservation, have a desire to share their voice to help shape youth programming at the Phoenix Zoo, and have the ability to work in a team and be a leader. We anticipate inviting 12 new members to serve on the Trailblazers Youth Advisory Council this year.

This program is designed for both experienced teens and those who have not yet had the opportunity to demonstrate their leadership potential but have a strong desire to do so. We encourage all teens to apply. By valuing and including a diversity of perspectives, the Phoenix Zoo can create more inclusive, accessible and effective programs and opportunities for teens and young adults.

Trailblazers must commit to the program for a minimum of one year (August through May) and be able to attend all scheduled meetings. Meetings take place on Saturdays at the Phoenix Zoo, typically from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Program dates:

  • August 17, 2024: Full-day orientation and workshop
  • Monthly meetings: September 21, October 19, November 16, December 14, January 18 February 15, March 22, and April 26
  • May 16, 2025: Service-learning project showcase and end-of-the-year ceremony

(All dates are subject to change)

Trailblazers are also expected to put in some additional time outside of the scheduled meetings to work on their projects, meet with their teammates, and complete advisory research/tasks. Trailblazers will be invited to attend other optional events/opportunities that may be of interest as they become available.

The application is online and includes self-evaluation questions, short-response questions and two scenario questions. Applicants must also identify one individual to serve as a professional reference and the reference will be required to complete an online reference form (see Reference section for more information). Applications are due by Monday, May 31, 2024 at 11:59 p.m. Arizona time.

Applicants must identify one individual to serve as a professional reference. A professional reference is someone that can speak to your professional abilities such as your ability to problem-solve, communicate and collaborate with others. Professional references should also be able to speak to your character and your leadership potential. Professional references can be someone like a teacher, coach, youth group leader or any other adult who knows you in a structured setting. Parents, family members and friends should not be used as references.

It is the applicant’s responsibility to find someone to serve as their professional reference and to provide them with the link to the online reference form. The professional reference is required to independently complete and submit the reference form. Applications will not be considered complete without the one required reference form. 

Reference forms are due by Friday, May 31, 2024 at 11:59 p.m. Arizona time.

Need help identifying someone to be a professional reference or how to ask them to be your reference? Check out these tips!

Students that are selected to be Trailblazers will be required to pay a $100 program fee. The program fee will support the cost of a program shirt, name tag, and program activities. Limited scholarships will be available and will be distributed based on individual student need after the selection process.

The Trailblazers Youth Advisory Council focuses on leadership development and empowers teens to assist in the design, planning and execution of teen programming at the Zoo. The monthly meetings involve collaborative group discussions, leadership and professional development activities and working in teams on the service-learning projects. Trailblazers are also expected to put in some additional time outside of the scheduled meetings. If you like thinking deeply about an issue or task and working with others to solve it, this is the program for you!


The ZooTeens program offers teens the ability to volunteer at the Phoenix Zoo on the weekends. ZooTeens volunteer shifts are focused on engaging and educating guests in a variety of fun and interactive ways. ZooTeens are required to complete a specific number of volunteer hours each year to remain in the program. If you like sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm for the natural world with others while developing important professional and life skills, this is the program for you!

No, you cannot be in both programs concurrently. However, if you are unsure which program is a better fit for you, you can apply to both. If you are invited to interview, you will be notified which program(s) you are being interviewed for and you will only be offered a position in one of the programs.

Participating in Trailblazers can help unlock your wild potential! Some benefits of being a Trailblazer include:

  • Leadership Development: Trailblazers will have the chance to develop and practice core leadership skills such as taking initiative, collaborating with their peers, inspiring and motivating others, and effectively guiding a team toward common goals.
  • Personal Growth and Self-Confidence: Trailblazers will have the opportunity to step outside their comfort zones, develop public speaking skills and present their ideas to a larger audience. They will have a platform to voice their ideas, concerns and perspectives, and actively contribute to discussions on conservation efforts. This empowerment encourages students to develop their own voices, become agents of change and influence decision-making processes at various levels.
  • Networking Opportunities: Trailblazers will have many opportunities to network with professionals, experts and like-minded individuals in the zoology and conservation fields who can help guide them in their educational and career paths. Developing this network is great for future letters of recommendation and professional reference checks for college, scholarships or job opportunities!
  • Career Skill Development: Trailblazers will have the opportunity to practice professional etiquette, project management, communication and collaboration with diverse partners and mentors, public speaking and delivering engaging presentations.
  • Environmental Awareness: Trailblazers will foster a deeper understanding and awareness of environmental issues and learn about the importance of biodiversity, habitat preservation, sustainable practices, and the interconnections between humans and nature. This awareness will help influence their personal behaviors and choices, leading to a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.

If you have additional questions about the Trailblazers Youth Advisory Council, please contact

Application Process

Acceptance into the program is competitive and we encourage all applicants to thoroughly answer each question in the application and carefully choose their professional reference. This year, we anticipate inviting 12 new members to serve on the Trailblazers Youth Advisory Council.

Ready to get started? Follow the steps below!