By Augusta Garrison

When I was 9 years old my teacher wanted my class to write an essay on what we wanted to be when we grew up for a New York Daily news contest. My essay was chosen and then printed in the paper. I wrote that I wanted to be a veterinarian. I wanted to make a difference in the world by caring for animals.

I have come a long way from 4th grade; I’ve worked with animals throughout my whole career. I took care of horses and cattle in college, I became a lead veterinary technician at the biggest animal hospital in New York City, and I’ve had a consistent 23 year career as an Animal Scientist in academia and at major biotechnology companies. Now, I’m an entrepreneur, owner, and operator of my own mobile pet grooming business.

Although I didn’t accomplish becoming a veterinarian, I’ve realized that I succeeded in working in my desired industry because I learned and applied science, technology, engineering and math in every position.

One of my most influential role models was my mother, who was an educator and concert performance singer. I observed how she evolved into a well respected and loved teacher and how she mastered classical voice. I learned from her how to listen and connect with children. I learned how to sing and grew to love it. I learned the value of an excellent well rounded education that included the arts. And in my case, music and the arts that brought everyone together and calmed the soul.

When I think back to that time long ago when I was 9, I wonder how could I have best become a veterinarian and fulfill my first dream. How could it have been different? Maybe if I knew a veterinarian at that age who would have been a role model? a mentor? What if I had visited a veterinarian’s clinic at 9 years old? Maybe if there was a place or club I could go where there were like-minded girls were encouraged to ask questions and be curious about potential career paths.

Perhaps we could have been involved in activities that stimulated those interests and related activities.

When I became involved in Cool Girls I just knew there was a set purpose for me to share what I learned from my experiences in a STEM career and in the arts. I know that at an early age many girls may be thinking about what they want to be when they grow up. They might have ideas and just be waiting for guidance or inspiration. I knew I could make that difference in being that bridge to get them to where they want to be. Listening to them. Understanding what they may want to focus on. Encouraging them to be challenged. Being a part of Cool Girls allows me to be involved in that early process where a girl can get specialized focused enrichment expanding her ideas early beyond what she can imagine. Creating an environment with many different and diverse activities around STEM that will empower her so that she can start realizing her dreams without limitations.

She can succeed in what she wants to be when she grows up. Whatever that may be. She can win that contest and make a difference in the world.

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