EICC Vet Tech graduate Crystal Forest: ‘It feels amazing’ after earning her third degree.
There’s always more you can learn and do, even if it’s in a field in which you already
hold some expertise. The desire to do just that is what spurred Crystal Forest to
return to the classroom after 20 years and earn a third college degree.
Her first: a bachelor’s in biology, with a focus on animals.
Her second: a master’s in psychology, focused on animal behavior.
Her third: a Veterinary Technician, Associate in Applied Science degree from Eastern Iowa Community Colleges (EICC).
“It feels amazing. I never thought I would be graduating again after having graduated 20 years ago. It's been an honor to be able to show my kids that with hard work you can do anything you put your mind to,” Forest said at EICC’s May 2023 commencement ceremony held on the campus of Muscatine Community College.
Her motivation to return to the classroom? “I’ve always been into conservation and ways we can protect and help animals,” she said. “After being a stay-at-home mom for a while, I just felt like I had more to offer to my two beautiful kids. I really wanted to share my love for animals and help them know they can play a part in doing good for their community.”
Throughout the two-year program, Forest was learning by doing. “Some of my most memorable experiences were the lab classes that we had for the Veterinary Technician program. We worked with a wide variety of animals from horses to cows, cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, and rats. So it was very fun,” she said. During that time, she learned to conduct exams and diagnostic tests, take x-rays and ultrasounds, and provide medical treatment, wound care, and more.
“The director of the program, Dr. Dan Drahos, he’s such an energetic guy,” Forest said. “He shares so many great stories during all of the classes. And he's just very motivating and made learning fun.”
The 250 hour internship she completed at a veterinary practice was valuable, too. “It was great to learn the ins and outs and what things are happening in the veterinary technician field. It also helped build my confidence by doing some of the skills in the field. Developing confidence is everything,” she said.
“EICC has an amazing veterinary technician program. It's very comprehensive in terms of what you learn. And with all the hands-on experience you get, I feel very prepared,” Forest said.
Before enrolling in the Vet Tech program, students complete a 20-hour job shadow. Forest did hers at Maplewood Veterinary Center in Bettendorf. They asked if she’d be willing to stay on and work there while she was in school, and she seized the opportunity. Now that she’s graduated, she plans to become a certified vet tech and continue working at Maplewood.
“I was working, going to school, and being a mom. So everything all together, it was a lot. But, you know, here I am today and it's just feels amazing,” she said.
Forest appreciated how supportive everyone was, including her EICC classmates. “I was unsure how I would blend with the younger community, but our class was just so welcoming. We worked together as a team throughout all our whole program,” she said, adding her friends and family were also very present the past two years, cheering her on every step of the way.
“And Dr. Drahos and Liz Cromer (EICC’s Vet Tech Hospital & Animal Coordinator), they were super supportive during this whole time, too,” Forest said. “It was everything to have that support because I wouldn't have been able to do this by myself. It really took everybody, you know, to help get me through this. And I'm so appreciative.”