Appreciating animals

Camas teen volunteered at the Oregon Zoo

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Matt Jackim, a 2011 Camas High School graduate, holds "Belize," a common boa constrictor, at the Oregon Zoo. "She is a very strong snake," Jackim said. "She is amazing -- the pattern of her scales. She is a personal favorite of mine." Jackim recently completed his fifth summer as a "ZooTeens" volunteer. His responsibilities included providing presentations to the public.

A recent Camas High School graduate has completed his fifth summer as a “Zoo Teen” at the Oregon Zoo.

Matt Jackim’s most recent responsibilities included taking care of ferrets and snakes in the “education animal house.” Younger “Zoo Teens” observed him performing tasks such as making meals for animals.

“It’s a really cool experience to teach other people during their first years [as volunteers],” Jackim said.

He said he has learned how to conduct himself in a professional manner in front of the public while providing presentations about various zoo residents.

“I learned so much,” Jackim said “Mainly, it affected me and the way to communicate with other people — how to hold yourself and present yourself.

“I’ve given animal talks [to audience members] from ages 2 to 90,” he added. “There are different expressions while I’m holding a common boa — from wandering eyes to flat out terror.”

The Zoo Teens receive no pay. Overall, Jackim volunteered 1,148 hours.

“It was my personal goal to break a thousand,” he said.

Jackim remembers visiting the Oregon Zoo for the first time as a youngster.

“I was looking over at the giraffes, and the kid next to me dropped his shoe in [the giraffe enclosure],” he said. “I was like 5 years old.”

Jackim, who is training in the field of heavy equipment operations and construction, would like to work on smaller construction projects at the zoo.

He recommends the ZooTeens program to high school students who want to work with animals.

“Definitely check out the program,” Jackim said. “It’s a life changing experience. We’re a family essentially. We’re always looking for new people.

“We don’t want people who don’t want to be there — people who have their parents forcing them to be there,” he added. “They should be there on their own accord — enthusiastic, energetic and just really focused on learning and understanding conservation and caring for animals.”

The Oregon Zoo is located at 4001 SW Canyon Rd., Portland. For more information about the ZooTeens program, call (503) 226-1561 or visit