Service is a huge component to the Captain experience and being a part of a service group previously, I knew I wanted to continue my work at university. At first, I felt like an outsider glancing in on the Newport News community. It felt too overwhelming to begin to look for where I could assist. Luckily, I knew about our Center for Community Engagement, which is an office that helps students get involved. I told them my interests and my passion to work with animals and they recommended I try volunteering at the Virginia Living Museum, which is right near campus.
When I applied online I was able to speak about my experiences with animals and the museum immediately placed me in animal care. I went through training which taught me how to interact with guests and animals around the museum. As animal care assistant, my specialty would be working with animals, cleaning their facilities and helping with meal prep. I am proud to say that I now know the diet of a wolf by heart, and can hold a kestrel with ease.
I missed my horses so much when I left from home, but I found comfort in the animals I work with every Sunday. My favorite animal is a crow that likes to speak to me. He taught me his impressive three-word vocabulary and actually responds to me if I reciprocate a call. I also befriended a screech owl who is small enough to fit in the palm of my hand and likes to perch on my finger to have a look around the room.
I am so grateful for the unique experiences I have been granted through volunteering. It seems strange that I can be donating my time to a cause and yet be receiving such amazing memories and relationships in return. The volunteer staff is spectacular at the Virginia Living Museum and I am so lucky to be a part of their team.