Bridging the Gap

Bridging the Gap is a new initiative from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) that seeks to connect high school students who have an interest in pursuing further study and/or a career in conservation science, zoology, marine science, ecology, or biology, directly with professionals in those fields.  In addition to receiving hands-on experience and mentoring, students will obtain information in areas including educational planning, financial aid options, effective job search methods, resume building, networking, job referral, and more.  Bridging the Gap is supported through a generous $1.1 million dollar grant from The National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent federal agency.

See firsthand what Bridging the Gap is all about! Read this article.

All five WCS living institutions will participate in this new program: Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, and New York Aquarium. 3 cohorts of 50 students each will participate. Students are selected on a variety of criteria including interest in STEM, willingness to commit to all phases of the project, and school and parental support.

Program Overview

Bridging the Gap’s programming is grouped into four phases:

Phase I: School-to-Career Institute
The School-to-Career Institute is an intensive learning program which seeks to introduce participants to the variety of science careers in zoos and aquariums. Students will attend 11 sessions that include conducting animal behavior studies, designing a zoo exhibit, and learning about the variety of zoo and aquarium careers by meeting with WCS staff.

Phase II: Mentoring
To increase networking opportunities and communication between students in our first two cohorts and WCS staff members, eight monthly community mentoring sessions were conducted at each WCS facility. Topics of discussion included: job readiness, college preparation, visualization techniques and goal setting methods, interviewing, and advocacy skills.

Phase III: Career Building Clinic (College Bootcamp)
Students will develop a skill acquisition plan that will include high school course selection, interview coaching, college applications, scholarships/financial aid, and campus visits.

Phase IV: Internships/Employment
WCS offers a variety of paid internship experiences for Bridging the Gap participants that include hands-on work experience and job shadowing opportunities.

Updates from Bridging the Gap

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Cohort 1

  • 25 of our 48 Cohort 1 students have been accepted into and/or will attend 17 different colleges and universities such as SUNY Plattsburgh, Mercy College, Penn State, Seton Hall, Saint Johns, Kingsborough Community College and more!
  • For service continuity and engagement, first and second cohort students will continue participation in all program activities to interact with and motivate third cohort students and to maintain the mentoring relationships cultivated with program staff and mentors.

Cohort 2

  • 52 students from 18 schools successfully completed the School-to-Career Institute and Career Building Clinic (aka College Bootcamp).
  • Students are currently engaged in various internships and pursuing additional educational and occupational opportunities at various WCS facilities and in their communities.
  • At Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and Queens Zoo, students are learning firsthand what it takes to become a Zookeeper by working side-by-side with current animal department staff.
  • Three students are working one-on-one with staff at the New York Aquarium’s Aquatic Animal Health Center by assisting them with research and testing.
  • A student from the Central Park Zoo is working with our architects, exhibit designers, and graphic artists to develop exhibit plans for vacant space at the New York Aquarium and the Central Park Zoo.
  • A group of students at Bronx Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and New York Aquarium are learning HTML/CSS and how to code in JavaScript and Python in order to update our Bridging the Gap blog.
  • A few students at each of the WCS parks are working with the summer day camp to learn about what it takes to be a Conservation Educator.

Cohort 3

  • We have accepted 54 students from 19 different schools into our third cohort, which will begin in September!