Congratulations and thank you to all those who entered!
Today, on their website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages, Animal Behavior College (ABC) has announced the winner of their 1st Annual Betty White Memorial Zookeeper Assistant Program Scholarship.
With the saddening news of Betty White’s passing on December 31, 2021, Animal Behavior College, thought it would be most suitable to dedicate a scholarship in her memory. Because of her contributions and endless efforts to enhance the well-being of animals everywhere, and in tribute to what would’ve been Betty White’s 100th birthday on January 17th, 2022, ABC announced a new scholarship in her honor: The Betty White Memorial Zookeeper Assistant Program Scholarship. This scholarship is valued at $1,995 (USD) and will be awarded to 1 chosen applicant every year from ABC. Applicants were to submit short essays telling ABC why they are passionate about exotic animals, what caused them to be interested in working in zoos, and how they can make a difference with a Zookeeper Assistant Certification from ABC. We received a huge number of applicants with a number of very impressive and heart-warming essays. All essays were read and reviewed by ABC’s directors and management team, who all voted on their favorite essay for the scholarship appointment.
After reviewing many submissions, Animal Behavior College is proud to announce John Austin Thomas as the first recipient of ABC’s Betty White Memorial Zookeeper Assistant Program Scholarship. Like Betty White, John has been extremely passionate about exotic animals since the very young age of two years old. John has always been most comfortable with animals and toured most zoos across the country, learning all that he could about them. With much support and encouragement from his family, John pursued his passion through educational books and practicing animal care daily at his own home with his own exotic animals.
In the last few years, John has been able to secure a job at his local zoo working directly with the public and being surrounded by the animals he loves so dearly. Being aware of his dream, the zookeeping team has given John the fantastic learning opportunity of helping them monthly with animal care and zookeeping tasks, but he is ready to move forward with his life-long goal of working with animals as a certified zookeeper assistant. “I share Betty’s dedication to all animals, and this scholarship would allow me to increase my knowledge and turn this lifelong passion into my future career,” stated John.
This scholarship will grant John an opportunity to pursue his passion by making a difference in animals’ lives. Working as a Certified Zookeeper Assistant gives him and others the opportunity to make a difference every day. ABC would like to thank all of those who took the time to submit their essays and is delighted to award John Austin Thomas with ABC’s Betty White Memorial Zookeeper Assistant Program Scholarship. Congratulations John on your scholarship at Animal Behavior College and we look forward to helping you pursue your dream career!
Animal Behavior College’s Zookeeper Assistant curriculum consists of 10 stages covering a wide variety of topics essential for a zookeeper assistant including zoo biology, zookeeper requirements, animal husbandry, animal behavior, animal housing, recordkeeping, safety, and more. If you are interested in our offered programs, please check them out on our website www.animalbehaviorcollege.com or https://www.animalbehaviorcollege.com/zookeeper-assistant/ or at our ABC Facebook, ABC Instagram, or ABC Twitter profiles for more information.
Please continue reading if you would like to enjoy the entry submitted by John Austin Thomas.
My mom noticed that I did not connect easily with other humans at two years old. Yet, I would naturally gravitate towards animals. After my mom sought a diagnosis for twelve years, it was not until I was 14 years old that I was finally diagnosed with Autism. My family supported my animal enthusiasm by bringing me to every zoo near us and then across the country. The highlight of my zoo tours was the Bronx Zoo; even though it was winter, it was a genuine wonderland. Since I was a young child, I was always the most comfortable in zoos. I loved to read all information at every exhibit and remember every detail. Like other autistic humans, I had relentless passions: animals, zoos, and becoming a zookeeper. My family cultivated this by filling my environment with educational books and creating a homestead filled with exotics like pot-bellied pigs, rabbits, goats, chickens, and ducks. I practiced animal care daily at my own home, participating in births, diets, hatching, housing, and occasional emergencies.
Even though over 80% of young adults with my diagnosis are unemployed, I secured a position in a Zoo an hour from my home. Three years ago, I started in the foodservice side at the Zoo Café and was finally surrounded by animals every day. To my surprise, I was chosen to work directly with the public, which has increased my social skills. The interactions may have been easier since, from the register, all I could see were peacocks. I excelled, and with the whole team knowing my dream, I was asked to help the keepers. To this day, monthly, I work with the keepers on exhibits and sometimes just give rescued prairie dogs human connection. This is a fantastic learning opportunity, and I am so lucky to get the chance to work with this keeping team. I am ready to move forward with my life-long goal and move to the animal side, but I need more formal training. I am from a small town in Mississippi, and there are no zookeeping programs in my area. This certificate would allow me to pursue an animal keeper assistant position. I share Betty’s dedication to all animals, and this scholarship would allow me to increase my knowledge and turn this lifelong passion into my future career. I have been interested in this certificate program and was very excited to see this scholarship opportunity. Even though the certificate is affordable, I cannot make a good salary in my position. But I know this part-time work is only temporary. So, I show up, tour the zoo on the way to my post, work hard, and envision the future that this certificate could provide. Until then, I will have lunch with our new giraffes and dream of the day, that I get to care for them.
Thank you for your consideration.
J. Austin Thomas