Board Involvement: Cristian

Cristian has been participating on the board of the Elmwood Park Zoo for eight years. Their mission is to create a local community environment where people can learn about the endangered (as well as the well known) animals in a way that is strictly educational. For example, rather than buying an animal just “for fun”, they take an animal who has previously been hurt and would not be able to survive in the wild. Cristian was asked to join this board right around the time that his oldest son was 2 or 3 years old. He was at the zoo all the time and seeing the enjoyment and laughter that it brought to his son very closely connected him to the zoo. This empowered him to help out even more.

When Cristian first joined, the zoo only had one year of financial capability of running and in the past eight years that he has been on the board, they’ve turned it around and now they are surpassing a $10 million marker. This has been extremely fulfilling for Cristian to see and experience, as he was there from the beginning.

Cristian sits on the marketing committee and one of the biggest tasks that he undertook was working with the zoo and a digital marketing partner to move the brand to the digital space. This includes bringing the zoo into today’s technology as well as making it visible online so that it can be found and drive attention towards it. He works with the marketing department in the zoo as well as the marketing agency to ensure that everything is done correctly and to its best ability. In addition, Cristian helps find the right vendor to update all of their IT environment, which is extremely important so that they have a better customer experience when they come to the zoos such as interactive screens. In an interview, Cristian states that “now it’s not just walking around animals, there are pop up screens that help educate and keep people learning”, demonstrating how passionate he is about the work he is doing and his commitment to the community.

When asked about something special this organization has done that Cristian is especially proud of, he responded by saying that in the past, they worked with Glen Mills Preparatory School, a school for troubled kids, and there was a group of children who were going above and beyond. They wanted to do something special for the children so the CEO at the zoo brought them to see the animals, use the zip line and have a cookout. Cristian goes on to say that “when it came down to costs, the CEO of the Zoo said ‘I don’t want anything’”. This organization really goes above and beyond to help educate children and give them the best experience possible, which inspires Cristian. “They are truly an organization that practices what they preach,” he states.

Cristian believes that joining boards that have the opportunity to not only change the lives of his own children, but also so many other children is incredible and extremely important. He is passionate about this board because it has created an environment where children can “be safe, evolve, and grow” and he says that if it weren’t for these organizations when he was growing up, he wouldn’t be who he is today, demonstrating his personal connection to Elmwood Park Zoo. He wants to continue paying it forward and as long as he feels that what he is doing is still having an effect, he is passionate about staying involved. He finished the interview by stating that “If you’re on a board and you don’t see why you’re there and don’t see the true connection, don’t waste your time. Being on both of these boards doesn’t feel like a responsibility but something I want to do”.