In 2013 Saint Louis Zoo Director Emeritus Charles “Charlie” H. Hoessle and his wife, Marilyn, created a fund to provide internship opportunities at the Saint Louis Zoo for students attending Harris-Stowe State University.
“To this day, Harris-Stowe remains the most affordable and accessible university in the St. Louis area to students of all ages,” Hoessle said. “This is a chance to give back to the community that has given us so much and introduces students to the possibility of a zoo career.”
Charlie and Marilyn Hoessle are both native St. Louisans and in the first generation in their families to attend college. They both earned degrees at the original Harris Teachers College in 1951.
After serving in the U.S. Army and operating an exotic animal operation for 10 years, Charlie was recruited by the Saint Louis Zoo as a reptile zookeeper. He then worked his way up after 20 years to become the zoo’s director was director from 1982 to 2002, with Marilyn at his side as an active ambassador for the zoo.
Charlie’s legacy lives on throughout the zoo, especially in the zoo’s Education Department that he established in the 1960s and in the Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium. After his retirement from the zoo as director emeritus, Hoessle wanted to stay involved, so the Hoessles created a fund and internship program to promote the importance of education within the zoo.
The Hoessle internship allows students to learn the fundamentals of animal keeping of many different species. After completing the program, interns are able to apply the skills that they learned to pursue a career in an animal-related or scientific field.
Caryna Childs, a junior at Harris-Stowe State University, is the sixth student to benefit from the internship program. After graduation, Caryna plans to attend vet school.
“It gave me a chance to work with different animals for 10 weeks,” said Childs. “It assured me that having an animal-related career is what I aspire to do in the future.”
For her future, Childs would do anything to work in the field, even if it means waking up early every morning to take an hour walk to work – as she did when working at the zoo.
“My dedication sets me apart from other students,” said Childs. “I do not have transportation, but that did not stop me from getting to my internship. I woke up early every morning and prepared myself for the hour walk it took me to get to the zoo on time.”
Along with working at the zoo, Childs has been working a part-time job at Papa John and as a Student Orientation leader at the university.
“Getting into a veterinarian program is not easy and very competitive, which motivates me to work as hard as I can to achieve my goal,” said Childs.
Working at the zoo is not all fun and games according to Childs. It takes hard work and dedication.
“Working at the zoo does involve cleaning after the animals and getting a little dirty, as well as working outside and being prepared to work in all types of elements, said Childs. “Animals can be unpredictable, so students will have to be ready for anything at any given time.”
Regardless of the unpredictability of animals at the zoo, Childs would still consider a career as a zookeeper.