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Job Experience Among the Wildlife

three seniors from Monarch School who are working at the San Diego Zoo

For Keonnie, Jeremiah, and Kyle a day at the office might include a break among the elephants or a trip on the skyfari.

The three seniors from Monarch School are working at the San Diego Zoo thanks in part to the work of the San Diego County Office of Education College and Career Readiness team.

Although working in the lush, animal-filled locale is a perk, they’re learning important skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. They work in various locations at the zoo, including the eateries and stock rooms.

“Working at the zoo has definitely been an experience — being able to meet so many different people and skill types,” Kyle said.

For Jeremiah, the experience has been particularly helpful in developing skills related to working with other people.

“I’m a pretty quiet and shy person,” he said. “It has helped me build a lot of essential skills for myself in a professional environment. I got a whole lot more confident in speaking with people.”

The three were hired by the zoo in October, after working with their teacher, Sherrell Tyler, and Ernesto Rivera from the Work-Based Learning team on things like interview skills, working with a team, and job expectations.

“We’ve partnered with the zoo to provide our students easier access to job openings and a streamlined application process that gives students immediate consideration after the interview,” Rivera said. “These students, who might not otherwise think a job is possible for them, are now in a better spot to land these positions.”

As their teacher, Tyler said she wanted to make sure that the skills the students are learning now will be transferable when they go on to college or other jobs. On the job, the students are tapping into and practicing many of the skills they’ve learned in class and through the work-based learning workshops.

“It’s really beautiful to watch them develop these skills,” Tyler said. “The more that we keep doing this and providing these students with opportunities, those skills do show up.”

The experience at work has also helped in the classroom, with things like task management, confidence, and social skills.

“They’re better at managing their work, at the zoo and in the classroom,” Tyler explained. “I feel like I’ve recognized that they’re more supportive of each other and other students.”

Keonnie said she was “super stoked” about the opportunity to work at the zoo, which is her first job.

“It has been a lot, but in a good way,” she said. “I’m really proud of myself.”

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