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HomeTheGoodStuffThe Good Stuff by Shelley Bennett

The Good Stuff by Shelley Bennett

Matt Day attends to one of his elephants

By Shelley Bennett

Part of my school day is spent with a freshmen Homeroom class. These students give me a new perspective of the world at LHS.

I’ve never had a class of only freshmen and I think this group is unique. I asked them on the second day of school to tell me how they want their teachers to remember them. Several of them wrote the acronym GOAT on the chart paper, which stands for Greatest of All Time. I admired their confidence and told them they had to prove it.

So far they are living up to that expectation, even in a year of uncertainty and constant change.

I keep thinking they don’t know what they are missing out on, but it doesn’t seem to bother them. Most of them are earning good grades, have joined clubs and sports teams, and assimilated into high school culture pretty seamlessly.

When asked what careers and colleges they were interested in I received some wide ranging and lofty responses. Everything from surgeon to interior designer to veterinarian. So I got to work and called on some former students to educate them.

First up was alumni Matt Day. Now, there wasn’t a request for zookeeper, but I knew that Matt would be entertaining and a good pick to be our first presenter. He didn’t disappoint.

Matt graduated in 2009 and after graduation moved on to Butte college, then Chico State. During this time, he volunteered at the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Sanctuary in Durham, CA. He also earned a bachelor of science in Parks and Natural Resource Management.

Matt always kept in touch, letting me know about his exploits in the animal world. One night I stayed up late to catch a glimpse of him on The Tonight Show as he appeared as an animal handler with Jack Hannah. Since then he has traveled all over the world to study animal behaviors and unique species.

I’ve followed his career from his first job as an elephant handler in a zoo on Oahu, relocated to Omaha, then Florida, and now the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, IA where he is the Ambassador Animal Care Specialist and Program Coordinator. I love that my former student now educates others in his role at the Zoo.

My students met Matt on Zoom, where his big, goofy grin made them feel welcome right away. He took them on a virtual tour of their indoor jungle and we saw a couple of snakes and poison dart frogs. It was snowing that day so most of the animals were under cover.

He also brought out a skunk, fed it some treats, and showed us what he would in his zoo classroom. The students had so many questions, one asked what was his favorite animal. Matt replied, “The one that is behaving that day.” If you know Matt and his personality, you know why I chuckled to myself.

Our next presenter was the lovely and poised Emily Egan. Emily is a member of the Class of 2016. While in high school, Emily set many ambitious goals for herself and I was always impressed by her work ethic. She worked on her family’s ranch, raised award-winning steers, and still managed to earn her CNA licensure and win the title of Miss Lassen County in one summer!

Emily attended San Diego State University and earned her Bachelors in public health in 2020. Yes, during Covid. While she should have been celebrating her graduation on the beach with her family and friends, she was moving to Colorado to tackle her next educational goal.

She started her studies at Regis University in Denver this past summer and will graduate with her second bachelors, this time in Nursing in April. During her rotations, she especially enjoyed Labor and Delivery and so it is no surprise that she was offered a job at Renown in Reno in that department upon her graduation.

When Emily introduced herself on Zoom, students were immediately drawn to her calm and logical demeanor. We had interrupted her studies and interview preparation, but you would never know. She told them how she had worked nights in a hospital while going to college and how that helped ensure she had chosen the right career path.

Emily recalled her rotation on the psych floor and said while that specialty was not for her, it might be for others. She recommended classes and clubs to get involved in to help students get a head start in the medical field.

Two different students, personalities, and careers, yet the same drive and love for what they are now doing. I couldn’t be prouder. Thank you to Matt and Emily for taking time out of their day to give back to their alma mater. They made a difference in these future GOATs.

I have read many posts and comments that label and degrade the younger generations. As a member of Generation X, I say, you’re doing just fine.

Emily Egan will be begin her nursing career in April

Remember when news was ‘newsy’? When you read about weddings, family events and engagement announcements in the newspaper? If you have something that might be newsworthy, please submit it to [email protected] and I’ll do my best to include it here in “The Good Stuff.”

Jeremy Couso
Jeremy Couso Publisher/Editor
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