Out of the Zoo and Into the City

Jan. 10, 2014

Bet you didn’t know ZonaZoo is more than just a pack of rambunctious Wildcats squished like sardines.

“Regardless of whether you’re a sports fan or not, there is something for everyone in ZonaZoo and you can make a difference on campus” says Luis Mariscal, ZonaZoo’s Community Outreach Director. 

ZonaZoo’s Community Outreach team does more in the Tucson Community than most Tucsonans, or even students, realize. During the 2009-2010 academic year, the Junior Cats program was brought to life, offering elementary school and middle school students the chance to hang out with a group of ZonaZoo students in hopes of inspiring them to attend college. This year, the ZonaZoo team decided to include high school students.

“When you reach out to high school students, this is a time where they are making the important decision of whether or not to go to college and, by doing it this way, we can potentially reduce the high school drop-out rates in Tucson,” said Luis.

This year, the high school students ranged from freshmen to seniors. Each was partnered with a UA student and shown what it’s like to be an Arizona Wildcat. The junior cats toured McKale Center, trekked around campus on a Mall crawl, learned about UA history and traditions, and closed the day at Bear Down Friday on University.

When the high school students first stepped on campus, they were nervous, quiet, and self-conscious (typical teenagers, right?). But after spending a couple hours with the UA senior cats, the junior cats were singing Bear Down from the top of their lungs in true Wildcat fashion. Was a future wildcat was born that day? We think so.

All UA students are encouraged to be a part of Junior Cats and help inspire Tucson students to pursue a higher education. “As long as you’re a student here at the university, you can be a part of this program,” Luis noted.
Just like ZonaZoo began with merely a t-shirt in 2002 and has grown to the largest student section in the PAC-12, the Community Outreach team within ZonaZoo continues to develop and prosper.

“We’re taking baby steps to make ZonaZoo more present around the Tucson community” he says, “which is why we started the Tucson Beautification Project,” which aims to clean up local neighborhoods.

Having school spirit is so much more than how you act at football and basketball games—it’s about eating, sleeping, breathing, and bleeding UA red and blue. So get involved, reach out to the community, and show Tucson (and the nation) what it means to be a Wildcat.