There’s Big News happening with the Zoo-To-Community program (ZTC) here at the Oakland Zoo. The program just received its first big grant for schools outside of Oakland! Since its inception three years ago, the Zoo-To-Community (ZTC) program has offered vouchers for free Zoo admission and access to programs such as ZooSchool, ZooMobile, ZooSchool Discovery and Zoo field trips to local residents who might not otherwise be able to afford them.
And now, thanks to the generosity of the East Bay Community Foundation, funds are available to reach West Contra Costa County. That’s definitely good news for Richmond Title 1 elementary schools, (where 75% or more of the kids are on the free lunch program) child development centers, and Head Start schools. Head Start, as you may know, is a national program that promotes school readiness. The Title 1 program provides funding to school systems for students at risk of failure and living at the poverty level.
During these last three years, ZTC has been steadily expanding. Through the use of mailings to school principals, the word has been spreading, and more schools have been getting involved. Participation has quadrupled in the last year alone, enabling the program to reach an impressive 16,000 people, including 13,000 school-age children.
Grants from donor organizations are a big part of the Zoo-To-Community program. In a typical year, ZTC receives half a dozen such grants, ranging from $2,000 to $15,000 a piece, from supporters such as First 5, Bechtel, Clorox, Wells Fargo, The Junior League, and the Rogers Foundation. So the East Bay Community Foundation’s grant for $ 15,000 represents a substantial part of ZTC’s financial backing for the year.
What all this financial business boils down to is this: last year we had the most funding ever for bus transportation. Up
till now, the biggest headache for ZTC– the one thing that’s kept the program from achieving its full potential has been transportation. Oakland is one of the few major cities that doesn’t have its own school bus system. Even with free Zoo admission, many people simply had no way to get here. So the program’s resources weren’t being fully utilized. But now, thanks in large measure to the East Bay Community Foundation’s Grant, that’s all changing.
All of this is exciting news for Zoo-To-Community Coordinator Sarah Powers, who has derived great satisfaction from being able to offer the benefits of the Oakland Zoo to a whole new segment of the East Bay community. Ms. Powers, who’s been in charge of ZTC for the past year and a half, says she looks forward to continued expansion of the Zoo-To-Community program in both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. So if you’re eligible for ZTC, get on the bus and check out the Oakland Zoo!