Today we’d like to introduce you to Sienna Arcala-Anderson.
Sienna, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I live a life by the sea: I grew up in Huntington Beach and moved to Newport Beach as an adult. In addition to many ocean water sports like kayaking, bodyboarding, and surfing, I am especially interested in marine animals and will soon be SCUBA certified.
I am a citizen scientist in studying clam species, and I hope to work with additional aquatic animals in the veterinary field. Additionally, I’m a veterinary technician student at Stanbridge University, graduating in May 2020. Stanbridge University provides a wonderful Veterinary Technician Program, enriching in content with amazing instructors and many opportunities. It also helps me on my path of becoming a Registered Vet Tech and obtaining a two year Associate of Science degree from an AVMA accredited university, which is required to become a veterinary technician, which is, in a nutshell, a veterinary nurse. I was an officer of my school’s veterinary sorority, SCNAVTA (Student Chapter of Veterinary Technicians of America), and handled all community service events, which involved communicating with non-profit organizations and ensuring that Stanbridge students completed required community service hours before graduation. Giving back to the community is very important. I have been volunteering for a while, and my favorite volunteer experiences involve instructing the public on butterfly species at the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach, and cleaning up the Newport Backbay on a kayak.
A fellowship is a merit-based scholarship for advanced study of an academic subject, which helps pay for academic pursuits. It provides opportunity to work with specific exotic animals in extraordinary places, not found in small animal labs or farms. Because I am especially interested in marine animals, I applied for a fellowship to get hands-on experience with marine animals. This fellowship was offered through my school to work at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.
Anyway, after applying, I was selected as a California Campus Compact-Community Engagement Student Fellow (CESF). The CESF is 4-month initiative specifically designed to support student leaders advancing service, service-learning, and community engagement at California Campus Compact member campuses throughout the state.
Through CESF, I worked at the Aquarium of the Pacific, and I shadowed Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVTs) and DVMs and completed 50 service hours. During my time at the Aquarium, I made a sea lion friend, Parker, who helped me learn about the husbandry and mannerisms of sea lions. Parker’s mammalogist showed me that sea lions can be persuaded to listen to commands through food such as squid, clams, and fish. After each command, if the sea lion listens, he is given a handful of food. I learned that this training is why RVTs and DVMs are so easily able to perform blood draws, dental examinations, and physical examinations. Other than the husbandry and mannerisms of Parker, I also witnessed a multitude of procedures, ranging from common procedures such as dental prophylaxes (dental examinations) of sea otters, as well as being lucky enough to be at the Aquarium during the rare occurrence of a news-breaking rehabilitation of a sea turtle.
The sea turtle was rescued after she had swallowed a fishing hook, which had to be removed. Once this hook had been taken out, the sea turtle was given pain medication and antibiotics, along with a regular feeding schedule. For a month, the sea turtle would not eat, but with the dedication, persistence, and care of the staff, she miraculously started to eat again. When we fed the sea turtle, we used a feeding tactic called “Scatter Feeding.” This involves tossing food where the sea turtle cannot see me so that she would not be conditioned to associate humans with food, and this helps rescued sea turtles transition more easily back into the wild. As well as learning these practical skills, my fellowship was a wonderful opportunity for me to be an advocate for animal welfare, and also to develop my environmental conscience. My time working with the sea turtle allowed me to undo some of the harm done by humans to sea life, making the world a slightly better place.
By sharing my experience with the Aquarium of the Pacific Campus Compact Fellowship, I can explain to others how all of our actions impact sea life. I will additionally endeavor to live by example, and volunteer at marine life animal shelters, pick up litter at the beach, recycle, and reduce my use of plastic goods. During my CESF, I was required to be quick on my feet and to adapt to situations around me, an environment in which I discovered I excel. I want to work with marine, avian, amphibian, and reptilian species for the rest of my life, something I would not know if I had not had these experiences. Moreover, because of my experience in the California Campus Compact-Community Engagement Student Fellowship program, I truly believe that through pairing patience with persistence in my effort to help marine animal life, I can change the world!
Additionally to receiving a fellowship this year, in the past two years, I have won four scholarships, and been published in two magazines! I get to get publicly recognized by SCVMA (Southern California Veterinary Medical Association) on stage, at Disneyland, in February, where there will be a performance by Rebecca Black!
My goal after Stanbridge University is to continue my education and to study animal nursing. I hope to obtain my bachelor’s degree and become a Veterinary Technologist, then apply for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) school.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has not been a smooth road. I struggled with financial situations. Being a 21-year-old professional woman in California, trying to support herself through college has its inevitable hardships. I struggled immensely to support myself through college and study at the same time. Many of these nights ran into days, and days ran into nights, and I just couldn’t find time to breathe or take care of my personal health. I was so busy that I found social interactions with my friends to be unbearable. I could not focus on anything other than my financial situation and my education. I developed high blood pressure as a result and an insomnia issue, of which are both currently being managed. I found that extreme couponing saved me hundreds of dollars in expenses per month, and it naturally became a hobby of mine.
Along with extreme couponing, I had to work…A LOT. The most number of jobs I’ve worked at one time is four (or five if you count my side hustle), and that’s while taking 6-8 classes a week. At one point, I was working as a manager of an environmentally friendly maid service, while simultaneously working three other jobs doing food delivery. I had a side hustle of dumpster diving and selling the items on Letgo/Offerup/Craigslist, which brought in a little extra money. I relied heavily on my car for all of my jobs, so I was in a constant state of fear of homelessness and hunger if my car broke down, which it eventually did, so I had to live very frugally off of my savings (which I already was doing) until I bought another car. In my desperation after the loss of my car and jobs, I applied to as many scholarships and grant opportunities as possible. I even did excessive research on clinical research trials that I felt were safe enough to participate in, just for the compensation.
So, no, I would say that it has not been a smooth road! But that’s okay.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
Sienna graduates from Stanbridge University in May 2020. She is a retiring officer of the board (Chairman of Community Service) for SCNAVTA, a position she had held over her duration at SU. As Chairman, Sienna governed collaboration between SU Veterinary students and non-profit organizations, while ensuring that SU veterinary students met community service hour requirements, simultaneously giving back to the community.
In addition, Sienna significantly expanded club membership and participation. Sienna grew club funds through organized events, sent out email blasts, and drastically increased SCNAVTA attendance numbers. She also aided in the adoption of many shelter animals and provided them with the relief of forever-homes.
Sienna currently works at SU as a Peer Tutor, where she provides extra learning in all veterinary technician courses through simplifying complex subjects of veterinary medicine, teaching mnemonics to remember advanced medical procedures, and instilling better studying habits and organization skills. She has significantly improved test scores of her peers, and increased quiz/exam pass rates. For her services, she has received a rating of Excellent.
Previously, Sienna completed a preceptorship at Stonecreek Animal Hospital in Irvine learning from seasoned RVTs, where she performed restraint, venipuncture, catheterizations, vaccinations, blood draws, administration of bolus fluids and medications. Additionally, she assisted in surgeries by monitoring all values, handing supplies as needed and prepping animals for surgery.
She recently completed a Fellowship as a Veterinary Intern under Juli Barron, RVT, at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. Along with having charted patient anesthetic values for sea otter dental prophylaxes, having provided medication for amphibians, and having assisted in administering medications for avian species, she also aided in the recovery of a rehabilitated sea turtle, released on October 8th, 2019.
Recently, she was chosen from dozens of RVTs to receive a scholarship from the Education and Scholarship Foundation of SCVMA and will be recognized and awarded in Anaheim, CA.
Leisurely, Sienna enjoys being in and around water. She takes pleasure in kayaking, snorkeling, body-boarding and is a Citizen Scientist aiding in the studies of local clam species. She is becoming SCUBA certified in November 2019.
She plans to obtain her Bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Technology from St. Petersburg University in Florida, starting May 2020.
Fun fact: She has her Bachelor’s degree in Metaphysical Science.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Here are some quotes about success that I live by. They are both by Winston Churchill.
The great man said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Churchill also stated, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
And then, I don’t know who said this but it’s a great one: “Every day is a new beginning. Take a deep breath, smile and start again.”
Definitely live by that! I sure do.
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