Animal attraction: 70-year old BCC instructor enrolling in vet tech school

By: By Chrysta Carroll -

DUBLIN — Seventy-year old Sara Neeley, an instructor with Bladen Community College, has never been one to shy away from adventure, but even for her, this next chapter is a walk on the wild side.

After she obtained an undergraduate degree in 1969, the Danville, Va., native and her husband — a military man — were living in South Carolina. The military wife enrolled in The Citadel nearby, where she earned her master’s degree in English. After staying home with her two children for some time, Neeley began teaching in the 1990s, eventually making her way to Bladen County and to Bladen Community College, where she has taught English for the last seven years.

Recently, however, she’s been feeling a call to the wild.

“I always wanted to be a veterinarian,” recalled the educator. “In the 1960s when I graduated from college, we didn’t have federal aid and all that, and I knew any advanced degree I would have to pay for, so I took the road more travelled.”

Knowing full well her mother’s inclination, last year, Neeley’s daughter, who has a master’s degree in English herself and teaches near Atlanta, Ga., called and informed her mother that she was thinking about going back to school to become a vet tech. To Neeley’s surprise, her daughter invited her to enroll as well.

“On a lark, I said I would,” recounted Neeley.

In the fall of 2016, she enrolled in Biology 111 — a general biology course — and chemistry 151 — BCC’s general chemistry class.

“I wasn’t sure how that would go, but I sailed right through both with no trouble,” Neeley said, adding that she got a “strong A” in each class.

With the confidence instilled from success, Neeley is now ready to tackle the rest of the requirements to be a veterinary technician. Usually requiring two years of coursework, the program will not take as long for Neeley to complete since she already has general classes like science, history, and English under her belt. And Neeley’s not intimidated by the prospect at all.

“I’ve been around students all my life, and I’m a studier, so I’m not intimidated by college,” she said. “I am self-conscious of my age.”

Despite any misgivings or fears, Neeley is full steam ahead, even committing to a geographical move. At the end of May, the educator/new student will be relocating to her daughter’s home in Georgia and attending Gwinnett Technical College just north of Atlanta.

She relayed that she’s “too old for online classes” and will therefore take all seated courses, but she looks forward to doing labs and studying with other students regardless of their age.

She attributes her can-do attitude to her father.

“Even though it was not popular during his era, he believed and taught us that girls could do as much as guys,” she commented. “He said, ‘You can do anything you want, any time you want,’ so that’s what I’m doing.”

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

By Chrysta Carroll