Talking for the animals

Sarah Delgado is a Chico State University freshman working toward a psychology degree with a minor in animal science/ agriculture. She is an intern with the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation.

This is an open letter to the Butte County Planning Commission, which recently denied the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation’s request to increase the number of exotic animals cared for at its Durham facility.

Upon my graduation in 2004, I will apply for the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at Moorpark College. This program is very competitive to be accepted into; they accept only the highest GPAs (mine is 3.48) and those students with the most animal experience. Of the 400-plus students who apply, only 40 to 50 are accepted.

Before my move to Chico, I took a vacation trip to Six Flags Marine World. I was talking to one of the Orca trainers about the steps she took to her success. We found that we had a lot in common: She, too, went to Chico State University and majored in psychology. I was thrilled to know that I was on the right track to reaching my professional goals. Then she told me the key to her success: The Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation.

I moved into the dorms at Chico State and began to adjust to college life. Once I had all of my classes settled, I gave Roberta Kirshner a call. I will never forget the call I gave my mother that night; my mom spoke of concerns for my safety and my life. Ms. Kirshner assured her that I will always be safe and never in a risky situation. I soon found myself working many hours at the foundation, earning college intern units for my degree.

In a class discussion, a professor spoke to the class about how the No. 1 emotion felt by college students is loneliness. I could really relate to this. Yes, we may be surrounded by friends, and we are kept constantly busy. Yet we no longer are surrounded by our parents’ unconditional love. The cats at the foundation helped me incredibly. I am taking 20 units this semester, so I am feeling very stressed and swamped a lot of the time. At the foundation, being around the animals just makes me feel so good. Nothing can explain the serenity I get there. It makes all of the stresses just disappear.

Ms. Kirshner does numerous programs with retirement homes, mentally disabled persons and the hearing impaired. I can see how these programs relate to my own emotional status. I can only imagine what it does for those that have benefited from the program.

I have been an intern at the foundation since Oct. 12, 2000; the last six months have changed my life incredibly. I have learned so much from Ms. Kirshner and her staff. Everyone goes out of their way to explain what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Since working at the foundation, I’ve discovered my style of learning. I have found that college isn’t just sliding by or getting from one point to another. Learning about the cats and the numerous animals at the foundation has encouraged me to seek more and more information about them. I now always have a craving to learn more.

The foundation is an education program for children. I have learned so much from the foundation. I find that the foundation is such an asset to the community, other organizations, and the schools that participate in its programs.