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Congrats to our 2023 Zoo Crew Scholarship Recipients

The Houston Zoo Teen Programs are dedicated to supporting and cultivating our next generation of conservation leaders. The Houston Zoo honors some of our hard-working and passionate Zoo Crew members with a $2,000 scholarship to assist them in achieving their educational and professional goals. These scholarships are funded by the Houston Zoo and the Don and Diane Kendall Zoo Crew Scholarship Fund. Recipients are chosen based on their demonstrated commitment to Zoo Crew and confidence in sharing conservation messages with others or motivation to take action to reduce threats to animals in the wild. This year we have selected four incredibly talented and motivated teens as the recipients of the 2023 Zoo Crew Scholarship.

2023 Zoo Crew Scholarship Recipients

Astrid Allen
Hello! My name is Astrid Allen and I am a senior at Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. I have been in Zoo Crew for three years, to which I have had the wonderful opportunity to be both a Junior Horticulturist and a Junior Zookeeper in Primates. Zoo Crew has taught me that as educators, empowering people and cultivating awareness are among the best ways to preserve the environment, and I have taken this mission to heart. At my school, I am the founder and president of Biology Bowl, a STEM club that is a combination of Biology Olympiad and Ocean Bowl. Through this club, my goal is to promote overall awareness and appreciation for biology and conservation among the student body. Also at my school, I play jazz double bass, which has introduced me to a plethora of passionate and talented musicians with who I have had the profound pleasure of collaborating.

I have many goals for the future, and my experience in Zoo Crew will undoubtedly facilitate my progress. I intend to study biology in college, particularly molecular biology. No matter where this takes me, whether I become a physician, researcher, public health leader, or something else, I know that the skills I have gained from Zoo Crew—collaboration, communication, and self-confidence—will enable me to better succeed in my future endeavors.

Katey Norman
Hi, my name is Katey Norman and I’ve been in Zoo Crew for four years. I started Zoo Crew in 2020, where the program was shifted to an online format due to COVID. Spending my Explorer year of Zoo Crew was definitely a different experience than most Zoo Crew get, it was extremely beneficial to me, as it allowed me to truly grasp the messages and information that the program had to share. My explorer year as a member of the “Zoom” Crew taught me so much, and led to some amazing experiences throughout my years in the program. I spent my second summer of Zoo Crew as a Naturalist, where I started familiarizing myself with the animals and people of the zoo. This experience allowed me to learn a lot about lemurs, and started to foster a love for that animal in me. The following summer, my third year in Zoo Crew, I applied to be a Junior Zookeeper in the Primate’s section, and to my surprise, was selected. It was here that I truly began to love primates and the lemur species specifically. I learned so much about them and about the way they interact, and I fell in love. Using my knowledge from the first three years in the program, I joined the Teen Leadership Council as a Lead Conservation Mentor this past summer, where I taught likeminded teens all about the zoo and its efforts in conservation, including those related to lemurs, and so many other fascinating species.

Zoo Crew has taught me so much about myself, and the person I strive to be. It has guided me to be better equipped to navigate different social situations, meet time crunches and deadlines, and really fostered my communication skills. It also guided my path into conservation, an area that I had never even considered before the program, but now where I want to focus my future.

I plan to attend either Mississippi State University or Texas Tech University this fall for my undergraduate degree. I want to major in Animal Sciences with a concentration in conservation, with a minor in Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology. I want to then attend vet school and receive my DVM. My dream would be to work in Madagascar with GERP and Dr. Jonah Ratsimbazafy as a vet for lemurs, but as it is an extremely high goal for myself, I would potentially like to open my own vet clinic, where we focus our efforts not just on animal health, but also on proper treatment and conservation, as well as human mental health.

Maya Ortiz
Hi, I’m Maya Ortiz, and I have been a member of the Zoo Crew Program since I was thirteen. My past two years in the program, I have spent on the Teen Leadership Council as a historian and then a lead conservation mentor. As a historian, I got the opportunity to organize a social media campaign and record the memories and impact of the teen program. I also spent two years as a member of Zoo Crew’s bird-saving campaign. This past summer, as a lead conservation mentor, I got the opportunity to help lead and educate the next generation of conservation heroes.

Zoo Crew has become a second home to me these last few years. The program helped me find my voice, and it helped foster my passion to save wildlife and conservation education. I cannot wait to utilize the conversation skills, professionalism, collaboration skills, leadership skills, and knowledge that I have gained through this program in my future. I hope to major in environmental science or biology and continue work in conservation through wildlife research and conservation education.
I am so grateful for this schola

Zahri Cade
Hello! I am Zahri Cade, a senior at Mirabeau Lamar High School. Over the past five years, I have been an active member of Zoo Crew, with the last two years spent on the Teen Leadership Council, currently holding the role of Lead Camp Mentor.

Participating in Zoo Crew has been an amazing experience, and an integral part of my life that has not only shaped my ideas regarding conservation, but also my approach to education, teamwork, and work ethic. Joining Zoo Crew has allowed me to explore what conservation education truly is, and to be able to spread that same message to the visitors of the Houston Zoo. Zoo Crew has heightened my passion for conservation, but also for issues regarding humans as well. One of the most important lessons I learned in Zoo Crew is that humans are the center of conservation, and how different perspectives and situations impact conservation efforts. This idea is commonly presented in the Zoo Crew program and has allowed me to find community in a diverse group of people with different perspectives.

Engaging in Zoo Crew has refined my leadership skills to be one of responsibility, integrity, and an ability to collaborate and empathize with others. Within the program, I have been extremely fortunate to work with Conservation Education staff members. They have taught me invaluable lessons on communication, providing constructive feedback, and encouraged me to learn something new everyday, whether it pertains to the environment or life itself. I plan to take the skills I have acquired during my wonderful time at the Houston Zoo into my college life, and into my career path as a screenwriter. I believe it is important to educate the world through all forms of media, and I am committed to incorporating environmentalism into my writing. I extend my heartfelt gratitude for the support this scholarship provides in furthering my aspirations and goals.