Olesya Tipikina was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 4. Growing up, she had a passion for the outdoors and teaching. As a teenager, her confidence grew and her two passions flourished at the Oregon Zoo.
“Seven years ago, I got hired to be a part of the ZAP team at the Oregon Zoo,” Tipikina said. “I would have never guessed my first job would turn out to be something so much more than just a job.”
The Zoo Animal Presenter program — ZAP for short — employs people ages 15 to 19 as educators, providing free conservation programming to communities throughout greater Portland. ZAPs receive training and mentoring to hone their leadership skills and explore career opportunities.
Some of Tipikina’s first few animal-outreach experiences with ZAP were at Marysville Elementary School, so she was very excited to later be placed there as a student teacher while attending Concordia University. And when the opportunty arose, ZAP teens provided a guided field trip for her class. She was thrilled.
“It meant the world to me and the kiddos,” she said. “You’ve got some future ZAPs coming your way!”
Last year, Tipikina graduated magna cum laude from Concordia and began substitute teaching in Portland Public Schools. She is hoping to pursue a graduate degree at Lewis & Clark. Her dream is to teach humanities at a Title 1 middle school and launch her own program, similar to ZAP, to help young people find their footing in the world.
ZAP and other education programs would not be possible without the support of donors, members and corporate partners. Thanks to Allstate Foundation, Banfield Pet Hospital, Columbia Sportswear, FedEx Ground, First Tech Federal Credit Union, KinderCare Education and Union Pacific Foundation for supporting education programs for kids throughout our community.