Almost always after I tell someone that I am an animal trainer they will always ask me, “How did you get a job like?” My answer is I did my homework.
When I was in high school my Life Skills teacher gave us an assignment that truly changed my life. He told us to think about what we wanted to do when we were five and find out what it would take to get that job. Of course living close to SeaWorld San Antonio as a child and going there often I wanted to be an Animal Trainer. When I searched for “how to become an animal trainer” on the internet I stumbled upon SeaWorld.org and found a camp that you could go to and work alongside SeaWorld zoological staff and with the animals under their care.
When I went to Career Camp I prepared diets for the animals, shoveled snow in the Penguin Encounter, fed a walrus, got kissed by a beluga, and many other incredible things. At the end of camp I knew that I this was I wanted to do and this is where I wanted to do it. That first summer I went twice and next summer three times. After college since I could no longer go to camp I became a camp counselor and had two more great summers at SeaWorld Camp.
The animal interaction at SeaWorld Camp was amazing, but what I cherish the most about my experience was the people. Ten years later some of my best friends are people I went to camp with. Several of us now work with animals at SeaWorld in various roles. I also have friends that are zoo keepers across the nation and even some that are about to graduate from vet school. If you ask any of us what the most influential part of our life was we would all respond, camp! It is a special place that ignited our passion for animal care and conservation.
The hands-on animal experience that I gained at camp was enough for me to get my first internship at my local zoo. Since then I have worked with dolphins, rhinos, and elephants. Now I am an Animal Trainer on the Animal Ambassador Team at SeaWorld San Diego. This year I am going to be an Ambassador for the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund and see polar bears in the wild and learn how to be a leader in fighting the effects of climate change.
My favorite part of what I do now is when I have the opportunity to work with campers as they visit my area of the park. I hope that I inspire them as much as the trainers I meet when I went to camp. And of course, working with animals all day isn’t bad either.
I look back at all the amazing things that I have been able to do because I went to camp. I always wonder where life would have taken me if I didn’t do my homework.