Lindsay Peyton
West Seattle resident Katherine Fry, 17, has logged almost 800 hours of volunteer service at the Woodlands Park Zoo. Most Saturdays, she can be found on zoo grounds with her cart displaying various educational materials like belts, bones, clays and hair that guests can touch. The zoo is honoring the teen with its Youth Conservation Award on Tuesday, Feb. 28 – as part of its Thrive Leadership Awards dinner and fundraiser held at the Four Seasons downtown.

Katherine Fry takes home the gold – for her commitment to the Woodland Park Zoo’s conservation efforts

By Lindsay Peyton

On most Saturdays, 17-year old Katherine Fry boards a bus near her home in West Seattle and makes a two-hour commute to the Woodland Park Zoo.

The senior at Chief Sealth International High School has volunteered in the ZooCorps teen program since 2014 – and has logged almost 800 hours of service.

Her dedication has not gone unnoticed.

The zoo is honoring Fry with its Youth Conservation Award on Tuesday, Feb. 28 – as part of its Thrive Leadership Awards dinner and fundraiser held at the Four Seasons downtown.

This will be the first year for the Youth Conservation Award, youth engagement coordinator Issana To said.

“We’re focused on inspiring and empowering youth to take action,” she said. “The more we can do that, the better.”

To said a number of teens were nominated for the award. Judges sought a young volunteer who excelled in expressing empathy and honesty, was engaged in learning opportunities, showed commitment to conservation and encouraged others to get involved.

To explained that Fry fit the bill. “This is Katherine’s second home,” To said. “She’s here all the time. It’s a testament to her devotion.”

To was especially impressed when Fry inspired even her parents to volunteer at the zoo.

“She’s taken every opportunity that comes her way at the zoo,” To said. “When she started, she was just interested in the animals. Now she wants to make conservation her career. We want to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards – and Katherine is one of those.”

Fry first learned about ZooCorps when To visited her school to recruit new volunteers.

She said a group of her friends applied online for the position. “We thought it would be really cool seeing the zoo from another perspective, from more behind-the-scenes,” she said.

The zoo invited her in for an interview – the first one she had ever attended.

“I got the email eight days later,” Fry said. “I was very excited. I remember counting down the days until we went to training.”

Since then, she has been an active member of nearly all of the zoo’s teen leadership programs, including ZooCrew, Seattle Youth Climate Action Network, the Volunteer Trainer Program and Amphibian Monitoring. She also had an internship at the zoo last summer.

As part of ZooCrew, Fry sets up a cart at different spots in the zoo – displaying various educational materials like belts, bones, clays and hair that guests can touch.

“I was shy starting out,” Fry admitted. “You definitely get more comfortable as you keep doing it.”

For the past four years, she has volunteered about three Saturdays a month, usually in shifts lasting for six hours.

Fry plans to attend Western Washington University in the fall to study environmental science and biology. She wants to have a career in field research and possibly education.

“I hope to still have a close connection to the zoo,” she said. “Being here, you’re definitely part of a larger zoo community, getting first hand experience.”

Fry was surprised when she learned about winning the Youth Conservation Award. “There are many teens like myself here,” she said. “They all enjoy working here. I never expected to be recognized for what I’ve been doing.”

She’s content enough to simply do her part to help the zoo in its conservation effots.

“What you put in is what you get out,” Fry said. “I realized the longer I was here, the cooler the experience was.”

For more information about the zoo and its volunteer opportunities, visit www.zoo.org.  

We encourage our readers to comment. No registration is required. We ask that you keep your comments free of profanity and keep them civil. They are moderated and objectionable comments will be removed.