Meet Nicki LaPierre
Marine Mammal Training - Florida Keys
by John McNamara
"Find a job that you love
and you'll never have to work another day in your life!"
Nicki LaPierre is a perfect
example of how determination and a little hard work can lead
24, Nicki is one of the youngest dolphin handlers in Florida
finding your dream job.
Nicki, a slender a 24 year old with a great tan, found her dream
job three years ago as a dolphin handler in the beautiful Florida
Keys. Her cheerful attitude clearly displays the passion she
has for what she does. She always has a smile on her face, and
that smile gets even bigger when she's around children. She
commands the respect of all the participants in the dolphins
swims by the emotion and excitement she exudes when she talks
about the beauty and grace of her dolphins. But her greatest
skill is in the way she interacts with the dolphin - she love
them and they love her.
It all started when Nicki was only
seven years old. Her parents gave her a dolphin necklace and her
love for dolphins began. From that moment she knew that the marine
mammals were going to be special in her life. In high school, she
was attracted to any subjects dealing with the ocean or the outdoors.
Once, while vacationing to Florida, her parent took her to Sea World
in Orlando. It was during that visit that her love for dolphins
strengthened and this convinced her that her career would somehow
After high school in Centerville,
Virginia, Nicki went to University of Tampa, to study Marine Biology.
Her freshman year proved to be a difficult one as she watched many
of her classmates drop out or switch majors. The courses were very
tough, but with a little encouragement from Dr. Rice, one of the
college's guidance councelors who recognized her strong will, she
was able to stay focused and study hard. Even though Nicki knew
the odds of working with dolphins were against her, she kept going,
and remembers how valuable Dr. Rice's support was. Since there were
no specific programs at the college for dolphin handling or care
giving, Nicki knew her best chance was to try and get an internship.
She spent one semester interning with dolphins in the Florida Keys,
and that semester changed her life forever.
Nicki states, some people have
a glamorous idea of what an internship is, they think its a vacation,
time away from school, but its not like that at all. Its definitely
hard work, and you don't get paid, it was a real eye-opener."
Nicki remembers those times fondly, she had a lot of fun and made
new friends. Nicki impressed the dolphin people in the Florida
Keys so much that they offered her the first dolphin handler position
that became available. Nicki recognizes that without her perseverance
in college and the internship, she probably wouldn't be where
she is today.
The dolphins must
accept and trust the handler
Nicki is proud to be one of the youngest
dolphin handler around and happily admits that she is living her
dream. She realize that she's living a charmed life, being able
to help people, making them smile, and of course working with the
dolphins. Nicki has learned a lot up to this point, both from other
more experienced trainers, and from the dolphins. Not everyone can
be successful with the dolphins, they need to get to know and develop
a relationship with their handler. The dolphins must accept and
trust the handler. Even though she is not in the water all the time,
she feels she has been accepted into the Dolphins world and
is part of their family. Nicki loves her job with a passion that's
rare, and tells us that she doesn't see herself giving it up any
time soon. Her future plans include working with special needs children
and the dolphins.
Nicki final words for everyone, do what you truly desire
and follow your dreams.
Thanks Nicki, for letting Tropical Adventure tell your story!
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