Volunteerism Pays Off for Jonathan Rooney

Have you ever wanted to spend an afternoon nuzzling an umbrella cockatoo? Perhaps desired to watch a hedgehog burrow its way under your leg? Or even just spend a generous amount of time playing with kittens? Since 2008, I have lived this dream. I work at the Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA, and I can honestly say there is nothing I would rather do.

My career with the AAWL began when little eight-year-old me attended Camp Ruffin’ It, a day camp where I learned about a wide range of animals and the roles they play. After a summer spent in Camp Vet, learning about veterinary medicine with other preteens, I joined the Teen Tracks program, an opportunity for eager, animal-loving teens to volunteer in the AAWL’s education department. I joined as a shy, withdrawn child, and over the course of five years, the program has helped me grow into a confident, outspoken leader—though admittedly, one who is not above making smooching noises at a chinchilla.

And this summer I will go one step further: I now officially work for the AAWL, teaching the same camps that I attended a decade ago. Having come full-circle, I am eager to pass on the knowledge I have gained to the next generation of teens, confident that in doing so, I am shaping my own life as well.

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