Mentor educates kids from the city on animals of the jungle

It may be difficult to learn the in’s and out’s of nature’s wildlife if you are a city dweller. But one man is working to change that by giving teens an opportunity to learn about animal conservation.

Luis Mendez has always had a passion for wildlife.  His interest in nature and animals stretches back to when he was a child taking many family trips to the zoo.

Then came high school summers.  Luis says his dad didn’t want him getting into trouble so he signed up for a two week summer camp program at the Brookfield Zoo.

“It was kind the start of my career in the informal science educational world, specifically a zoo setting,” he says.

That experience set Luis on a career path that would take him full circle.   He is now the manager of the Brookfield Zoo’s program called “The King Conservation Science Scholars Program.  The program introduces teens to wildlife and nature but also prepares them for college and careers in environmental science or animal care.

With 250 students participating, the teens can apply as early as 8th grade and stay in the program throughout high school can use later on in their educational careers.

Students are required to do volunteer work and undergo classroom training.  But they also get hands on experience at the zoo and interact with visitors and learn how to properly care for animal specimens.

Luis uses a grassroots approach to recruiting students, by visiting inner city schools and others in the Chicago area to spread the message about the conservation program.

He hopes by reaching out he can inspire kids to learn more about nature.

Luis Mendez is one of Chicago’s Very Own.