You have probably heard the saying, “Find a job that you love and you’ll never have to work another day
in your life!” For many of us, it is hard to imagine having that kind of love for a day job, but for some like Nicki LaPierre, this statement couldn’t be more true. Nicki is a perfect example of how a little determination and a lot of hard work can lead to great success, even at such a young age. At the age of 21, she found her dream job in the beautiful Florida Keys and now, three years later, Nicki is one of the youngest and most talented dolphin handlers in the State of Florida. Her cheerful attitude clearly displays the passion she has for what she does for a living and the excitement she exudes when talking about the beauty and grace of dolphins commands respect of all participants in the dolphin swims. But her greatest skills are seen in the way she interacts with the dolphins-she loves them and they certainly love her!
Where It All Began
Nicki’s love of dolphins started when she was only seven years old, and her parents gave her a dolphin necklace. She fell in love with the necklaces and with dolphins and from that moment on, she knew that marine mammals were always going to have a special place in her heart. In high school, her favorite classes were the ones having to do with the outdoors and with oceans. Once, while vacationing in Florida, Nicki’s parents took her to SeaWorld in Orlando. It was during the time in this park that her love for dolphins was strengthened and she became convinced that her career would somehow involve dolphins and maybe even swim with dolphins in Florida too! After she graduated from high school in Centerville, Virginia, Nicki moved to the University of Tampa to study Marine Biology.
Though many of the Marine Biology courses were extremely difficult, Nicki was able to stay focused and study hard with the help of Dr. Rice, one of her college’s guidance counselors who recognized Nicki’s strong will and heart for dolphins. Even though she knew the odds of working with dolphins were against her, she kept persevering, remembering how valuable Dr. Rice’s support was.
A Life Changing Summer
Since there weren’t any specific programs at her school for dolphin handling or care giving, Nicki realized that her best chance was to try to get an internship. She spent one semester interning with dolphins in the Florida Keys, and that semester changed her life forever. Nicki described her internship, saying, “Some people have a glamorous idea of what an internship is. They think it’s a vacation, time away from Marine Biology school. But it’s not like that at all. It’s definitely hard work, and you don’t get paid. It was a real eye-opener.” She remembers those times fondly, as she had a lot of fun and made several new friends. Nicki impressed the dolphin trainers at the facility so much that they offered her the first dolphin handler position that became available.
Where She Is Now
Today, Nicki recognizes that without her perseverance through her college years and that internship, she probably would not be where she is now. She is proud to be one the of the youngest dolphin handlers around and happily admits that she is living her dream.
Even though she is not in the water all the time, Nicki feels she has been accepted into the dolphins’ world and is a part of their family. Nicki loves her job and has a rare passion for what she does, telling us that she doesn’t see herself giving it up any time soon. Her biggest future plans is to work with special needs children as they get the chance to swim with dolphins. Nicki’s final words of advice to everyone who is trying to figure out what do for a living is, “do what you truly desire and follow your dreams.”
To read more about how to get a job or internship with dolphins and other marine animals, Dolphin Internship.