PHS student volunteers time at Maryland Zoo

By Hannah Stoller

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Throughout the year, each Pikesville student has his or her own preferred way to spend the weekend. Some hang out with friends, some attend football games, some work, and some choose to stay home and catch up on sleep. However, not many students can say that they spend eight hours of their day standing outside, educating children about a snake.

Since she was a freshman, Khala Marshall Watkins (’15) has dedicated a substantial amount of time to volunteering at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. She goes in year-round, every other weekend during the school year and everyday during the summer. Marshall-Watkins partakes in a few different jobs and activities there.

“I stand at exhibits with biofacts, which are all the dead stuff—the animal pellets, the skulls, all that fun stuff,” Marshall-Watkins said. “I educate the children and whoever comes up to the exhibit.”

Not only does Mashall-Watkins handle nonliving animal artifacts, but she also often holds live animals.

“I’ll take an animal out, whether it be a turtle, a lizard, a snake or chinchilla, and I’ll put it out into a little pen and monitor how people touch it,” Marshall-Watkins said. “If it’s too cold to take the animals out, I just play games with the kids.”

I love animals and I want to be a vet, so I figured what better place to start than the zoo?”

— Khala Marshall-Watkins

Marshall-Watkins first found out about this unique opportunity the summer before freshman year when her grandmother was watching television one day and happened to see a commercial advertising the job.

“My grandma actually saw it first and called me all ecstatic like, ‘You’re going to volunteer at the zoo!’” Marshall-Watkins said.

This volunteer work fits with Marshall-Watkins’ own goals and aspirations, and that is why she initially decided to devote her time to it.

“I love animals and I want to be a vet,” Marshall-Watkins said. “So I figured what better place to start than the zoo?”

Marshall-Watkins said that she has enjoyed the job enough to do it for three years and counting and praises the many benefits of taking advantage of this rare opportunity.

“I get to go behind the scenes, like I get to go back and pet the penguins if I want to,” Marshall Watkins said. “I also get fifty percent off tickets which is really nice.”

The kids get so happy when they see me with the animals.”

— Marshall-Watkins

In addition to having special privileges like these, Marshall-Watkins appreciates the experience of getting to interact with children and put smiles on their faces.

“The kids get so happy when they see me with the animals,” Marshall-Watkins said.

Although she conveys joy about these aspects of working at the zoo, Marshall-Watkins stresses that it is no easy undertaking. She attributes this to the unpredictable Maryland weather.

“I’ve had to stand outside the exhibit in the rain, in the snow, in 20 degrees, in 100 degrees,” Marshall-Watkins said. “So that would definitely be the worst part of the job.”

Despite the occasional hardship that Marshall-Watkins faces when she works, she does not hesitate at all in expressing all of the valuable lessons that she has learned from her time working with children and animals.

“I’ve learned responsibility, communication, and protocol,” Marshall-Watkins said. “I know that I have to communicate when I’m not coming in, when I am coming in, when an animal is in danger or when a person is in danger. It’s a ton of responsibility on my part.”