My story begins with the Wildlife Safari park in Winston, Oregon. I was nine years old when I first visited the park, and my heart has been captured every visit since. The animals all roamed freely in fenced-in areas, the park spanning 600 acres. Some of the animals could come up to our vehicles and others we watched behind glass enclosures. I remember thinking: this is where I want to spend the rest of my life, as a zoologist working among the animals.
I give credit to Disney’s The Lion King for inspiring me on the path to zoology. I remember my parents watching the film in the hospital where I was born and it always had a special connection to me. Without a doubt, my love for Wildlife Safari blossomed because of that film and I owe most of my creativity to it as well.
My family lived in poverty for most of my young life, so it made trips to Wildlife Safari, two hours away, a challenge financially. About every three years we could make the journey, and almost always we’d come away with a sense of peace from being in a place so carefree and open to us. My favorite animals at Wildlife Safari were always the cheetahs – rare, unique and unlike anything in the animal kingdom. I attributed them to my own personality and looked up to them in times of hardship. Now that I’m older and closer to reaching my dream of working there one day, I can’t help but feel a rush of excitement every time I look to the gates of Wildlife Safari.