Latisha Wright is a senior at Wiscasset High School and a volunteer for our Traveling Natural History Program. Almost every day since mid-September, she drives to Chewonki and helps care for our animals from 8:00 am to 9:10 am, weighing out meals, cleaning enclosures, and checking vital signs.
“Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, who grew up on a farm,” says Wright. “One day when I was about ten years old, I asked her if she’d ever wanted a different career, and she said she had wanted to be a veterinarian.” Life got in the way, though, and Wright’s grandmother never got to pursue animal care professionally. The story moved Wright. “I’ve always felt connected to my grandmother; we share a deep love for animals. From that day on, I’ve always wanted to be a vet –to fulfill both of our dreams.”
Fast forward to 2021, and it’s time for Wright to plan a senior year internship. A teacher connected her with Emma Balazs, our Director of Maine School Programs, and together, Wright and Balazs came up with a plan.
As a local student, Wright’s known about Chewonki for most of her life. An early encounter with one of our owls sticks in her memory. Then, In middle school, her class visited Chewonki Neck for an Outdoor Classroom experience. “We had lunch with semester students and staff – it was a cool dynamic,” she recalls, “At first, we felt like outsiders, but everyone made us feel welcome. Then, one day we visited the farm and assisted in milking the cows. That is something I won’t forget!”
Still, Wright wasn’t sure what to expect from her internship. After years of dreaming, what if her experience fell short of her expectations? Thankfully, it hasn’t. Instead, she says working with our animal ambassadors has only made her commitment stronger, and she’s discovered her passion for working with animals is bigger than she ever knew.
Working with our wildlife educators has also taught Wright about terminology, diet, and proper handling. She says, “I’ve never done an animal science class, and before this, I’ve only handled a few garden snakes. Now, I can speak about animals and their care with more specificity.”
And, when Wright was applying to college, Balazs connected her with a past Chewonki volunteer and staff member, Kyle Alamo, who shared his experiences from UMaine Orono, vet school, and volunteering with wildlife organizations in the US and abroad. “Connecting with Kyle was literally the best idea. He was amazing to talk to. Hearing about his experiences gave me a feel for what my own college experience could look like,” Wright says.
After much deliberation, Wright has decided to attend UMaine Orono to study animal science. She starts this fall and couldn’t be more excited.
Thanks for volunteering with us, Latisha! We are so happy to be part of your story and wish you the best at college and beyond!