Lerenzo Martinez has always loved helping animals. His passion started as a kid in Sacramento, when he would bring stray dogs and random animals home and ask his mom if they could help or keep them. Often, they just couldn’t afford to.
His mom was a single mom with three kids at the time. She worked two jobs just to support her family and went to nursing school at night. There wasn’t much spare money to spend on animals.
“I want to give a shout out to my mom. I have no idea how she did it, she’s the strongest woman in my life. She was my inspiration to keep working hard. She always spent all her money on us, making sure we had everything we needed for school and nice clothes. We had dogs here and there but we really couldn’t afford to help them if they got sick.”
Growing up knowing he couldn’t help all the animals he wanted inspired Lerenzo when he got older. He started volunteering at the Sacramento Zoo and went on to be a summer camp teacher’s assistant there during his junior and senior years. He also did an internship that gave him the chance to work with more exotic animals.
“I got the chance to clicker train an armadillo! That was awesome, it would come back to me…but in a week or two it forgot! I also got to see them work with hawks, and I handled boa constrictors, hedgehogs – a lot of different animals.”
Lerenzo also worked part-time at a dog day care during high school, and he still volunteers at a local shelter today; there was little doubt what direction his career would take.
Enough Playing Around!
After graduating high school, Lerenzo took a few months off to spend time with family, friends and his dog Daisy Mae. In early 2014 he decided to take a tour of Carrington College’s Sacramento campus. He enrolled in the Veterinary Technology program  and in February 2016 he graduated with his associate degree.
“The program was awesome. The lab had pretty much everything you’ll find in a vet’s office. They give all the tools you need to help you make it through class. The instructors had so much knowledge. Every time I needed help, the teachers were more than willing to stay after class to give me the extra time to work on it. They made me feel very secure; they aren’t in it for a paycheck, they really want you to succeed. I really want to give a shout out to Ms. Mobley and the whole Vet Tech team!”
A Disney Adventure
After graduation, Lerenzo didn’t want to jump straight into his career, he wanted a new adventure. He’d seen a friend posting on Facebook about her time in Orlando, Florida on the Disney College Program. He talked to her about it and it just so happened that applications opened up right when he finished school. He flew to Orlando and started the program in June.
“They give you a job – I’m working as a lifeguard at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge – and housing while you’re there – you have to pay rent, but the program is free. You apply to take different classes – business management, leadership classes, animation – all different kinds of classes. Right now I’m in an Environmental class with a focus on how we can inspire people to recycle and be more ‘green’. I want to apply for a professional internship in the animal hospital at Disney’s Animal Kingdom when I’m done with the program in January. It’s not a zoo, but they have a large collection of exotic animals…and I’d be working for Disney which is pretty cool!”
Find Your Passion
Lerenzo has two real passions in life – caring for animals and Freestyle BMX. He’s pretty good at BMX, he even has a couple of sponsors, but for him, it’s about the passion and having fun.
“Becoming a Veterinary Technician gives me the opportunity to do something I’m passionate about, it’s something I want to do, something to have fun with. It’s the same with BMX. Everything comes back to my mom – ‘Whatever you do, try and make sure you have fun with it’ is something she’s always said. There’s hard work for everything in life, but if I’m having fun with something, it ensures I won’t get tired of it. It’s a true passion.”
Lerenzo believes there’s no such thing as too much passion. He says passion makes you work harder and be the best you can be at your job. But while you need passion and a good heart to care for animals, he warns that there are definitely hard parts to the job, like a pet has to be put to sleep.
“It does have tough moments, I had a few of them during my rotations. But you’ve got to be strong to help the owners through a real bad situation. There was one particular case that I could really relate to, so it hit me a little harder. I broke down a little bit, but I took a breath, composed myself and got back to helping the family.”
Lerenzo has plenty of time to think about his future. He says that he’d love to go to veterinary school one day, but first he wants to travel more! At first he was put off by the cost of going to veterinary school, but then he thought about something else his mom told him.
“She said ‘if you like it, don’t worry about the money, you’ll find a way’ which is true. If you work hard enough, you can always earn money to cover what you need. My mom worked hard every day, went to nursing school, and always found a way to find the money for the things we needed. If my mom could do it with three kids, I can do it.”
Lots of Opportunities
During the Veterinary Technology program, students have clinical rotations to get hands-on experience in the field. Lerenzo was accepted to UC Davis Exotic Animal Medicine & Surgery Service and The Bird & Pet Clinic of Roseville for his rotations. Many students hope their externship sites will turn into job opportunities after graduation, but Lerenzo knew he wasn’t ready to jump straight into his career after school.
“UC Davis was amazing; it’s an amazing hospital, with amazing doctors, basically amazing everything! I really loved the people at Roseville; they told me when I left that I can always come talk to them when I come back, and they would figure something out for me.”
At the moment Lerenzo is taking advantage of youth and his freedom, he’s not planning out a career path just yet. He’s gone through college, he has his associate degree in his pocket, and he’s still young…so he says that he’s just trying to collect experiences right now. Once this Disney adventure ends next year, he’s not entirely sure what’s next.
“I try not to think too far ahead; I try to take everything day by day, or week by week. The only thought I’ve had so far is maybe moving to Lake Tahoe when I come back from Orlando. Again with the BMX thing, there’s a really cool park up there called Camp Woodward. I like the idea of getting a job up there, riding bikes, and teaching kids how to ride bikes too. That’s just something for fun, plus who wouldn’t want to live in Lake Tahoe for a while?”
Future Family Man
Longer term, a few years down the line, Lerenzo does see himself settling down, but right now he’s just having too much fun!
“I’d love to have a family; my mom would love it, she’d be a grandmother finally! I know when the time comes I’ll be ready to get a job and start my career. I still read my school books during my downtime, I kept all my test papers, so I still have a sense of what I’m doing. I just started volunteering at the local animal shelter in Orlando because I want to keep my skills up to par. I know that if things change and I need to get back to it sooner rather than later, I have the skills. I’ve got this.”
 For comprehensive consumer information, visit http://carrington.edu/degrees/veterinary-technician/