Kaitlyn Sage is interested in a career in veterinary science so the Huntington High School senior participated in a two-week summer program in Thailand working with elephants and dogs in Southeast Asia.
Ms. Sage traveled to Thailand with Loop Abroad, an organization that specializes in veterinary service programs. The Huntington teenager was picked to be among a small team of volunteers that worked for a week with rescued elephants at a sanctuary and spent a second week caring for dogs at a shelter.
“I’ve always wanted to become a veterinarian and this extremely hands on program, along with its conservation and rescue focus is truly one of its kind,” Ms. Sage said. “I wanted to be a part of something that would help me learn, but also make a difference and this program did just that. It also allowed me to start compiling hours of animal and veterinary experience, which are needed for admissions to vet school.”
Ms. Sage worked in an elephant sanctuary outside of Chiang Mai, learning about animal rescue and conservation on a large scale. The elephants at the sanctuary have been rescued from trekking, logging or forced breeding programs, according to Loop Abroad. Many of them had been abused and suffer from chronic injuries or blindness. At the sanctuary, they are cared for by volunteers from all over the world.
Ms. Sage and her teammates helped to feed and care for elephants, as well as learn about their diagnoses alongside an elephant vet. The sanctuary is also home to over 1,000 animals, including cats, dogs, water buffalo, horses and cows and is sustained in huge part by the work of weekly volunteers.
Elephants have been disappearing in Thailand for the past 100 years. There were about 100,000 elephants in the country early in the 20th Century. That figure has declined to just about 4,000 today.
The second week of the program saw Ms. Sage volunteering at a dog rescue clinic in Chiang Main. The dogs at the facility have been saved after being abandoned, beaten or abused.
While she studied under the veterinarians leading her group, Ms. Sage and her team made a difference in the lives of the dogs in their care. By providing check-ups and cleanings, diagnosing and treating ear and eye problems, taking and testing blood, administering vaccines, cleaning and treating wounds and helping with sterilization surgeries, the students were able to help support the health and well-being of the animals.
Ms. Sage was selected to participate in the program based on her academic transcript, an admissions essay and professional references. “I’m planning on pursuing a pre-vet college major and am deciding between some of the best programs,” the senior said. “I’m very interested in Cornell/Tufts and other colleges that have affiliated veterinary schools.”
Loop Abroad offers animal science, marine biology, and veterinary programs for students and young adults ages 14-30. Programs range from two weeks in summer to a full semester abroad. College credit is available. Visit www.loopabroad.com for more information.
“This trip was the most fulfilling summer experience I’ve ever had,” Ms. Sage said. “The opportunities for hands-on experience and personal growth were tremendous. Working with animals, especially the elephants was a life changing experience that I will always remember. This trip helped me to build veterinary skills and experience that I will use to help me on my path to vet school.”
Ms. Sage is looking forward to a spectacular senior year. She’s involved with an assortment of high school clubs and other activities. The teenager is the returning president of Huntington’s Latin Honor Society and has been treasurer of the Class of 2019 in each of the past four years. She also treasurer of Global Visionaries, historian of the Chinese culture club and a member of multiple academic honor societies and other clubs.
“I’m super excited for my two internships this school year,” Ms. Sage said. “I’m a planner/ teaching assistant for Mr. [Jordan] Gould’s 11th grade US History class and an intern at Harborside Veterinary Hospital, receiving school credit. Along with AP classes, this year is going to be busy, yet exciting with college right around the corner.”