It was dream that could have easily stayed just that.
A career in veterinary medicine, and nothing else, had not just always been on Tahj Boston’s mind; it had always felt like a part of her. People would ask about a plan B and she would tell them there wasn’t one. There never has been.
“It’s something I thought I could reach, but I never really knew if I would get there,” said Boston the day before she entered the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine with the Class of 2022. “I wasn’t sure if it would ever be real.”
Boston’s greatest strength has always been herself. She still has the kind of spirit that led her to, at 9 years old, scoop up an injured bird off the side of the road, place it in a shoebox and bring it back home, urging her mom to call around until they could find someone to make it better.
She still has the type determination that made her look at crime-plagued neighborhoods in Wilmington, Del., where she grew up and where violence gets continues to worsen, and knew she didn’t want to be a part of it.
She still has the undefinable drive that helped her become a first-generation college student.
“My mom wishes she could have done more growing up. She had my older sister at 17. She had me at 20,” said Boston. “ After high school, she went straight to work because she had to. She never really thought she could do more and I think that’s why she told me that I could.”
Boston’s parents always encouraged her to take school seriously and she always has. If her parents saw her doing well, they told her she was doing well. When she told them that she wanted to become a vet, they told her if that’s what she wanted to do, she had to go to college.
But Boston was the one who ultimately had to hold herself accountable for following that path; her parents weren’t really able to help with schoolwork or able to give guidance on applying for college. Boston’s counselor at her technical high school was supportive but strongly suggested she should have other options in mind. Boston responded by becoming valedictorian and getting into Delaware State University to study pre-veterinary science.
“Where I’m from in Wilmington, so many people who grew up there just kind of stay there,” said Boston. “A lot of people from my high school are still there just, you know, running around. Doing nothing. That’s just what happens there.
“What went on around me didn’t affect me because I just always knew what I wanted to do and I just stuck with it.”
For a city kid, the pre-vet program was eye-opening. As part of the agriculture department, the curriculum dropped Boston into a crash course on crops. She eventually worked outside at a university-owned farm — the first time Boston had ever set foot on a farm — for poultry science courses. She raised a chick. Later, when Boston visited the CVM for the first time and looked out of the windows in the library and saw cows, she felt at home.
A few years working as a veterinary technician at a Delaware animal hospital convinced her that she had been right about the field she chose so long ago. There, she learned how to give vaccinations and draw blood. She saw a spleen removed. She got advice on communicating clearly and confidently with pet owners, something she had been nervous about.
Now, it is important to Boston to be very active in a community if she joins a small animal practice. She sees herself as a veterinarian who will host community events so people can learn more about veterinary medicine and not just think of her as the person who tells them bad news about their pet.
“This is all I ever saw myself doing,” said Boston. “And now it’s happening.”
~Jordan Bartel/NC State Veterinary Medicine