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

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

About the Trailblazers Youth Advisory Council

Our Trailblazers Youth Advisory Council application is open to all students in Grades 9-12 for school year 2023-2024. 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. For the first year, we’re inviting 15 individuals to serve on the Trailblazers Youth Advisory Council.

We strive to create accessible and inclusive programs and welcome applicants from all backgrounds. If selected participants require accommodations to be successful in the program, we will make every effort to provide them.

Students that are selected to be Trailblazers will 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 annual Teen Career Conference
  • Leadership and team-building activities to strengthen core professional skills

Trailblazers will also participate in a year-long, team conservation service-learning project in the community. This is a great opportunity to develop leadership and project management skills and network with Phoenix Zoo staff and external community partners!

Trailblazers must commit to the program for a minimum of one year (September through May) and be able to attend all scheduled meetings.

Program dates:

  • September 23, 2023: Full-day orientation and workshop
  • Monthly three-hour meetings: October 21, November 18, December 9, February 17, March 23, and April 20
  • January 13, 2024: Full-workshop and teambuilding event
  • May 17, 2024: Conservation 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, August 21, 2023 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 Monday, August 21, 2023 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.

No, the Trailblazers Youth Advisory Council is not related to the ZooTeens program. While they share some commonalities, they are two separate programs. We are in the process of redesigning the ZooTeens program and plan to relaunch the applications for that program in Spring 2024.

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. For the first year, we will be inviting 15 individuals to serve on the Trailblazers Youth Advisory Council.

Ready to get started? Follow the steps below!