By Latasha Ford
As the saying goes, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” This is true for recent graduate Gabrielle Henderson who is excited about her future and determined to make a better life for herself.
Four years ago, she stepped foot on Fort Valley State University’s campus, and now the 21-year-old is preparing for her future as she recently stepped across the stage to receive her bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology on May 15. Reminiscing about her time as a Wildcat, Henderson is proud to call herself an alumna of an institution that laid the foundation for her to pursue her dream of caring for animals.
The Monroe, Georgia native’s parents introduced her to livestock and small animals at a young age. Her father even boarded horses and participated in rodeos and parades.
“I always gravitated toward animals as a child. This led me to pursue a career in veterinary technology,” Henderson said. “Being that FVSU offers the only four-year veterinary technology program in the state of Georgia, I knew I would not be far from home.”
Not only did the four-year program appeal to her, but she also admired her mother and many church members who either attended or graduated from FVSU. As a student, Henderson enjoyed the hands-on experience in the laboratory, which allowed her to ask questions and to network with her professors.
“We can get access to any animal and see how food is produced in other animal science classes,” she said.
Henderson also appreciated the opportunity to gain work experience through internships. She is interning as a pre-registered veterinarian technician at the University of Georgia (UGA), which began May 3 and ends Aug. 15. Henderson said she previously participated in a 12-week program through the veterinary teaching hospital at UGA. She received training in specialty and common-based services, including anesthesia and radiology.
“That is how I learned about the pre-registered veterinarian technician internship,” she said, noting she is evaluated at the end of each service every week. “It has been a great experience and a challenge. But with anything, if there is a challenge, you can grow.”
Another challenge she faced was the COVID-19 pandemic, which halted activities across the world in 2020. However, Henderson did have a positive outlook. “It allowed me to spend more time with my family. I really appreciated that,” she said.
Her main motivations are her family and to make a better life for herself.
“My mother and family have inspired me whether it has been through late night or early morning texts or words of affirmation. Praying and having a connection with God has guided me,” Henderson said. “If I put my mind to something, I can definitely do it.”
Her advice to students is to work hard, manage their time wisely, make connections with their advisers and to study.
“Have an open mind when attending different classes and work with animals you have never worked with before,” she suggested. “Try not to be too hard on yourself. There is nothing wrong with being a perfectionist, but everyone makes mistakes.”
In addition to schoolwork, Henderson maintained a busy schedule outside the classroom.
“Having a social life and being involved in clubs and organizations on campus can help. It is another outlet where you are not concentrated all the time on school and studying,” she said.
Her involvement on campus included the Blue Machine Marching Band for three years and co-captain of the Blue Pearls flag corp. her junior year. She was a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success.
Her goal is to continue her internship with UGA. She is studying to take the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) to become a licensed veterinarian technician. Upon passing, she will have the option to work full time or part time with the university. She also plans to apply for graduate school at UGA to pursue a master’s degree in wildlife sciences.
As Henderson prepared to graduate last month, she said it is emotional reaching such an important milestone in her life.
“These four years went by quickly, and now I am finished. I did it,” she beamed. She quoted author Stephen Richards, saying, “The only time you fail is when you fall down and stay down.”
The proud Wildcat said having a strong mindset helped her get to this point in her journey. She is thankful for the connections she made with her professors and peers who she now calls friends.
“Those are my sisters and brothers. I can really see those people at my wedding and family reunions,” she assured. “I built lifelong friendships and relationships here at FVSU.”