The Cleveland Metroparks began partnering with UCP of Greater Cleveland in 1998, creating the very first UCP of Greater Cleveland customer service based Supported Employment Site at the zoo. Throughout the past several years, UCP and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo have expanded the site together so that today client employees work in guest services, administration and food services throughout the zoo doing a variety of different jobs. The Cleveland Metroparks also connected UCP of Greater Cleveland with Aramark and Event Network, business partners that provide services within the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has been an attraction in Northeast Ohio since 1882. Over the past century, many impressive changes have been made which have transformed the zoo into the global wildlife adventure park that it is today. The zoo now has over 3,000 animals representing more than 600 species; as well being a botanical garden, demonstrating the complex relationship between plants, animals and humans.
Keri has been with UCP of Greater Cleveland since 2001 and spends most of the year working in the Vocational Services Organizational Employment Workshop at UCP’s main Wolstein Center building. This summer, Keri has been part of a special seasonal work program in partnership with Aramark and Event Network at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Six positions were provided in areas throughout the zoo during the summer for UCP adult clients with disabilities to learn and practice valuable employment skills. Keri really appreciates her employment at the zoo and the opportunity to work in the community during the summer. Keri began the summer as a member of the Aramark cleaning team in the Roaring Lion Café. Recently, Keri was given another opportunity to greet guests at the Event Network gift shop. She loves meeting guests at the door with her warm smile.
Keri often arrives early and uses this time to take photo excursions of the animals. Keri acquired a map of the zoo and took it home to plan her treks. She was eager to navigate the flower filled paths leading to a variety of unique animals and ventured down Lorikeet Lane in Australia, and lured brilliantly colored parrots with a small container of nectar. The lorikeets landed on her hand and used their bristle-tipped tongue to drink. She also discovered the cute koala bears, which were curled up in slumber. Keri learned that koalas sleep 18 to 20 hours a day. So, don’t be surprised to hear shhhhh when visiting the sleepy marsupials at the Gumleaf Hideout.
Feeding a giraffe in the African Savannah was great fun for Keri. She learned that giraffes can grow to approximately 19 feet tall. Keri also went through the special Dinosaur display around the Waterfowl Lake, and confronted the terrifying Tyrannosaurus Rex!
Working at the zoo has really strengthened Keri’s independence. Susan, Keri’s mom, stated, “It is truly amazing to see Keri taking all these trips independently through the zoo. Keri usually stays close to me, so to see her taking a tram by herself is surprising.” Susan views her daughter’s photographs and is thrilled to hear Keri’s stories about her zoo journeys. Keri’s employment at the zoo has been such a rewarding experience and we know she will finish out the summer with more great adventures.
Site Supervisor at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Vocational Services