Bethany (Jakubson) Boucher, Owner of Amazing Animal Ambassadors
“I am a very hands-on learner and when I saw that many of my classes would be just that, I was hooked. I had to go to Unity College.”
What is your title and company, and what are your main responsibilities, currently?
I am the owner of Amazing Animal Ambassadors. My company is a traveling educational program based out of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
What was your path to getting the job you have now?
Before I even attended Unity College, I was already working full time at a small local zoo. My favorite part of the job was training animals and getting to do live animal presentations with those animals in front of an audience.
I love teaching about what I am most passionate about. During college I continued to work at that local zoo through the first summer and during any vacation weeks. I then for the next two summers worked for the Chewonki Foundation and their Traveling Natural History program. I traveled throughout the state of Maine teaching with reptiles, birds of prey, some mammals, and even invertebrates. I began to really like the aspect of traveling to schools, resorts, camps and libraries with animals.
After I graduated from Unity College, I got a full time position for a company close to Boston called Rainforest Reptile Shows. With that company I continued to travel and teach all over New England with just reptiles, but lots of really neat large reptiles. I worked for them for about two years until I realized I really missed working with birds and mammals too and I wanted to spend more time close to home on Cape Cod. I decided to start my own traveling company with the experience I had gained from my past jobs. I also over the years, had rescued quite a bit of animals that I knew I could start the business with.
What do you love about the job?
I get so much out of teaching kids and even adults about the natural world and the animals that also call this planet home. There is nothing better than seeing someone touch or even see an animal that they had never seen before or sometimes ever knew it existed. I also love getting people over their fears of things such as spiders or snakes. The best feeling is having someone touch a snake and realize it is actually an amazing creature rather than something to be terrified of.
My goals are to get people excited about our planet and the animals around us. I want everyone to love the world and I feel like every time someone is touched by my programs or connects with an animal in a special way, our world gets a little closer to being a better place.
It is also very gratifying to know that I started this on my own. It has been a big adventure starting a company. Lots of paperwork and bills but it is all worth it. In the past two years my company has expanded to have about 90 animals and one other employee and some volunteers. Hopefully soon I can get some Unity students into internship programs with my company.
What made you want to come to Unity? Were those expectations realized by the time you graduated? Feel free to provide any examples of memorable classes or faculty. Which classes, internships or other experiences moved you toward your career interests?
To be honest, I never wanted to go to college. I already was working full time at a zoo and had my dream job. I felt college was unnecessary. After looking at some big universities that had Zoology as a potential major, I really wasn’t convinced either. It wasn’t until I went to visit Unity College that I actually was excited about college and knew where I wanted to go.
I loved the small classes and the welcoming atmosphere. I also loved that they had a major so specific toward what I wanted to do with my life. I, of course, majored in Captive Wildlife Care and Education. It was such a perfect fit for me. I love the outdoors and a more rugged lifestyle. I am also a very hands-on learner and when I saw that many of my classes would be just that, I was hooked. I had to go to Unity College.
The internships that I had while at Unity College were one summer back at the local zoo I had been working at and then the next summer at The Chewonki Foundation’s Natural History Program where I continued to work the following year as well. Both taught me that I wanted to be working with animals in front of an audience.
That year at the zoo when I had my internship, I worked with a red-tailed hawk named Jasper and he became one of the best animals I had ever worked with. We developed a great bond. I found out later that summer that our zoo was his last chance at survival since he couldn’t be released back in the wild due to an injury. He would have been euthanized if we didn’t take him in. That moment changed me, and I knew these were the kind of animals I wanted to train to become great animal ambassadors for their species.
I also spent three weeks on a wildlife management expedition through the University of Pretoria in South Africa — and that was the opportunity of a lifetime. I learned so much. I would suggest to anyone attending Unity College to do some sort of trip like that somewhere. It counted as [academic] credits as well.
How would you describe your transition from college to the working world, and what advice would you give fellow or future Unity alums?
It is hard for me to feel like I ever had a big transition period. I was never not working in the field. From the time I was 15 until now, I have been working in my field, so I really never had that experience. I definitely don’t miss all the essays and tests that come with school, though. Even when I was at Unity, I spent every moment I could even helping out at places like the Chewonki Foundation, even if it was just a weekend of cleaning up their bird aviaries.
My main advice for any future Unity College students or current students soon to be alumni is to always follow your dreams. I have hit many roadblocks where it seemed I would never accomplish my goals, but I kept at it and now have my own business doing what I love. Just keep pushing and trying as hard as you can. There will be many times in your life you might feel like you are getting nothing back because you are volunteering so much of your time, but that is what counts. If I hadn’t been willing to help everywhere I went, I never would have gotten this far. Show you have a passion in what you do. That is what will take you places.