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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


ZonaZoo partnering with local charity

UA students are collaborating with Big Brothers Big Sisters today in an attempt to encourage and motivate middle school students to seek a higher education.

The Associated Students of the University of Arizona and Zona Zoo are holding the second Junior Cats event of the year.

“”In the program, the children are given a tour of Arizona Stadium, the University of Arizona campus, an academic and career orientation, a spirit and traditions orientation and they are taken to an Arizona Athletics event,”” said Luke De Vogelaere, media and communications director for ZonaZoo and a pre-business sophomore. “”By giving children the complete college experience, Junior Cats promotes higher education in a novel manner.””

Typically each Junior Cat participant is paired with a Senior Cat, a UA student mentor. 

Members of Big Brothers Big Sisters from the Tucson area will act as Senior Cats and mentor the middle school students throughout the day.

The partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters will help take some of the financial burden off Zona Zoo, as they will be paying for the cost of t-shirts, said Dominick San Angelo, a campus outreach member of Zona Zoo and a pre-business sophomore.

“”The community development budget of Zona Zoo is $5,000 for the entire year, and an event like this costs roughly $1,000,”” he said.

San Angelo also said the Junior Cats program often gets various items donated toward the cause.

Last year, Zona Zoo held two Junior Cats events that served 20 children, but this year the number has inflated to 100.

The students who are granted this opportunity to spend time on the UA campus are from various Tucson middle schools, San Angelo said. “”The kids come from middle schools that historically are at a disadvantage. A high percentage of them will drop out of high school, and a low percentage of them will continue on to college.””

Zona Zoo sends out letters to the middle school counselors and administrators asking if their students would be interested in this program, he said.

“”We target kids who have been ditching classes or show bad behavior in school,”” San Angelo said. 

The culmination of the day will be the UA basketball game, where the Wildcats will take on Rice University.

“”We are expanding our reach by partnering with this organization, and we will definitely continue to have Junior Cats,”” said Hersh Goel, associate executive director of Zona Zoo and a molecular and cellular biology senior. “”We are looking for other partnerships in the future, in addition to the one with Big Brothers Big Sisters.””

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