Finding joy by working with underwater mammals


Sofia Salas

Senior Taylor Staples smiles for a picture. This summer was the last summer that Staples was able to be a volunteer at the Indianapolis Zoo.

Squeaking, splashing and swimming within the Indianapolis Zoo were all a big part of the summer for senior Taylor Staples. AP Biology teacher Mrs. Schnepp was the one to inform Staples of an opportunity that would be an experience she would grow to love. Although she had other obligations, she made time to be involved in new activities.

“It was like a blur. It was amazing,” Staples said.

Hoping for more opportunities to come, Staples had a great deal of experience as a volunteer junior dolphin demonstration attendendant at the zoo this summer. Staples assisted trainers in cleaning, feeding and much more. Her interactions with specific dolphins are some of her most memorable moments.

“If you are in a place with other people and you like doing that thing and they also like doing that thing you have a common ground to start your relationships,” Staples said.  

The volunteer position with the Zoo Teen program took place for Staples every Friday from 9:30 in the morning to 5 in the evening. The typical day, according to Staples, involved interacting with customers of all types, exhausting labor but also frequent breaks.

To be accepted for the job, interested high schoolers had to apply last Nov., and then attend an open house in Jan. that explained the program in more detail.   

Through all of the activities Staples takes part in, she still is able to manage having fun while doing them. According to her, through each activity she was able to have special moments that are significant to her. There was one moment in particular that struck Staples in a positive way this summer.

She was asked to select a child to feed the dolphins during a show. The child’s reaction was a heartwarming experience for Staples.

“The girl’s face just lit up,” Staples said. “That was really rewarding for me because I let it happen for her.”

Staples is not sure exactly what she plans on doing for a career but plans on attending college after graduation. Due to her experience this summer, if she applies for another position at the Zoo in the future, she would be given preference over novices.  

Staples thinks highly of the program and would recommend it to others.

“If they had an interest in the zoo and animals in general, then I would suggest it, because I had a really good experience, and it looks really good on college applications,” Staples said.