Three’s the Charm: Rhiann Swanson, Veterinary Assisting Grad, Puts Passion into Her Studies and Earns a Certificate for the Very First Time

Rhiann Swanson Veterinary Assisting GradRhiann Swanson tried three times to get a college education. She said she never had good grades in high school and almost didn’t graduate her senior year. When she first enrolled in college, she decided to study criminal justice. That did not last. Second, she focused her studies on early childhood education; but that didn’t stick either. After this second attempt, she thought she would never make it to a college graduation.

But a third time’s the charm: when Rhiann saw that her neighbor’s daughter signed up for a school to learn Veterinary Assisting, she decided to try college a third time. This time she was going to study something she was truly passionate about: animals. She enrolled in the Carrington College’s Veterinary Assisting program in Portland, Oregon and soon experienced a huge change in her academic performance. To Rhiann’s delight, by the end of the first term she had made the President’s List for her grades.

Why the sudden success? Her answer: “DO WHAT YOU LOVE.” She says, “Igniting my passion for animals showed me everything I had done before was just a place holder; as corny as it is, you just have to follow your passion. If you follow that, no matter how many struggles you have you’ll know it’ll be worth it in the end.” Having a certificate now in Veterinary Assisting, Rhiann is proud she is showing her daughter that it’s great to work at something you love, but you have to go after it.

Tell me about yourself.

I’m 30 years old. I was born in New Mexico. I have a little girl aged 8, named Aurora. We moved to Portland, OR in 2015 to be near my mom’s family. I have always loved animals from a young age; sadly, we recently had to euthanize my 13 ½ year old cat. But I still have three other cats and a dog. Now with the education I have, I can see better what’s going on with my pets and make their life better.

Growing up I always wanted to do something with animals, like marine biology. From there I thought of becoming an ASPCA officer – anything animal related. But I didn’t focus on anything animal-related until just last year. I had tried all kinds of things for work: landscaping, bartending, what have you. I did that until I decided I should find a career. Last year, I went from bartending to working at a doggie day care boarding center – I did try to get hired as an assistant in a vet, but they wouldn’t hire anybody without formal Veterinary Assistant education. I saw my neighbor’s daughter was attending another veterinary assistant training program, and that’s when it sparked me to look into that. I googled it and Carrington College popped up, so I emailed for more information.

When did you start and graduate from the Carrington College Veterinary Assisting program?

I started in May 2023 and finished January 19th, 2024.

Was there anything else besides studying you found challenging?

It was challenging to have a daughter at the same time. I’m lucky I have my mom with me, whenever I’m doing work or school. When I was in school, I was working at the boarding facility up until October of 2023 as well.

What’s the most important thing you learned about yourself while studying in the Veterinary Assisting program?

I definitely learned that if I’m not interested, I’m not going to apply myself. If you know you want to do it, no matter how many struggles you have you’ll know it’ll be worth it in the end. I learned how to have the drive.

Anything else in particular you liked about the Veterinary Assisting program?

First of all, I had an amazing instructor. Stacy Wanous. She’s the best teacher I ever had. She’s amazing. She was my only teacher through the course. She is kind of the head instructor of the VA program. You can tell she is passionate about it and really wants you to do well. I showed up in her office one day in tears about pharmaceutical math. She sat me down and hugged me and said it’s okay; we’re going to do this together and she walked me through it. She genuinely cares about her students.

Is there anything else you would like to say to students reading this article about your experience?

I would like to add some advice for future students:

  1. Find a schedule that works for you for your schoolwork and stick to it! That way you’ll never fall behind.
  2. Take advantage of all the opportunities that the program offers.
  3. Let yourself be curious and ask all the questions you can think of.
  4. Have a goal: I was so into it I made the President’s List for my grades my first term. So, I let that be my goal: of making the list every term after that, and it lit a fire underneath me. It was definitely hard at times, but if you set yourself a goal and strive for perfection, even if you don’t reach that perfection, you’ll still land on greatness.


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