A lady with many talents
July 21, 2018
Jena Sorrells and I are getting to know each other over a glass of iced tea. Jena graduated from St. Olaf's College in Minnesota with a quadruple art, theatre music and dance goal. This was followed by a year of adventure. She studied at St. Aberdeen College, in Scotland, sang in several cathedrals there, and followed up with Perth, Australia where she sang opera and had her own art studio.
In Minnesota, one of her part-time jobs led to pet health care.
"I went up the ladder much too fast. I was literally in charge of hospitals," she says.
Corporate pet medicine did not agree with Jena, but Moorpark College, also known as the exotic animal and managerial training school, did. To be admitted she had to enter a lottery. She was lucky. She earned degrees in wildlife training, wildlife education and wildlife husbandry. Jena was valedictorian of her class.
After graduation, she took a swing at Hollywood. She found a job at Benay's Bird and Animal Rentals. "The movie people would say, in two weeks we want the animal to do this and this. I soon realized Hollywood was not for me."
Next, she connects with the Wildlife Education and Conservation Association in Half Moon Bay, a minimum wage/many hours situation. Word gets out, and the Happy Hollow Zoo and Park in San Jose taps her to be one of three directors to oversee their $73 million renovation.
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For an hour and a half, I chronicle her achievements. I realize that good things happen to Jena on a reoccurring basis. She is picked to be a part of a project at the San Diego Zoo; "I reel in the bait and the cheetah races full speed to get it," she says, her eyes brimming with excitement.
She mentions making her third trip to the Congo to work on an enrichment project. "You are going to work with gorillas? I ask, "Actually no, I work with the Rangers," she replies and we move on and on.
But as fascinating as her accomplishments are, she makes two comments that eclipse everything else: "You can't work with animals if you can't work with people," is one and "when you are staring eye to eye and nose to nose with a wild animal and you don't know if they like you, or are going to eat you," and at that precise moment I race into the bedroom to fetch Orllyene and Kim, to hear what I think is going to be a resounding comment. But when we return, the moment is lost.
Orllyene and I are hoping to see more of this talented young woman, now that she lives in Smith Valley. Jena has a deep understanding of animals that is worth perusal. Her two years of seven-day week care of exotic animals has left its mark on Jena. I want to hear more, so stay tuned.
Ron Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.