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Class of 2021 Story: Earning My Just Desserts

Shayla Jackson
The class of 2021's Shayla Jackson. Photo by John Joyner/NC State Veterinary Medicine

Class of 2021 Stories The following by Shayla Jackson is the fifth in a series of Class of 2021 stories running through May 7 leading up to the CVM’s oath and hooding ceremony on May 10.

Read all of the stories here:

Imagine your favorite food – mine is banana pudding. 

Banana pudding typically has three different ingredients, and I prefer mine served cold. On a basic level, the three ingredients are the whipped cream, the pudding and the cookies.

The whipped cream on top is the face of the dessert. When you look down into the bowl, you see the delicately placed whipped cream creating the image of a well put-together dessert. 

The pudding is the foundation. The pudding is the support system of the dessert, carrying the flavor and combining all the ingredients to become one. Without it the other ingredients would just be tossed together in a bowl with no true purpose.

The best part of any banana pudding are the cookies — the crunch factor. The cookies are needed to shake up the humdrum texture of smooth cream and pudding and add the trademark layers to any excellent banana pudding.

So, how does this relate to my journey through the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine? Simply put, there were many days where I wished I had more banana pudding and less PowerPoint slides. 

Metaphorically speaking, it is much easier to explain my four-year journey as a spoon scooping through a chilled banana pudding dessert.

I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed first-year student still beaming on a high from graduating undergraduate school and embarking on the next step to pursue my purpose of becoming a veterinarian. I had no idea what to truly expect, but was filled to the brim with anticipation.

I remember walking around campus, touring the shiny hospitals with impressive gadgets and taking photos to make my first moments on campus a reality. I had created an image of a well put-together, straight and narrow journey, one which I could not wait to embark on.

Little did I know what changes I would have to make and steps I would have to take on pure faith.

Lectures hit me like a ton of bricks. Lectures became the foundation of school, and all the other ingredients (clubs and organizations, friendships, volunteering, etc.) would have been tossed freely in a bowl with no true meaning bringing them together. The material we were being taught became topics of discussion throughout my life.

Looking back now, I realize just how fascinated I truly was as I soaked in the knowledge. 

Challenges came in all shapes and sizes. Late nights studying coupled with failing grades have a way of making you into a problem solver. Adapting to each new lecturer, each new subject, new leadership roles, new living situations, new relationships and the loss of loved ones all carried their own levels of “crunch factor.”

Without these challenges, I would not have morphed from a wide-eyed first-year to a problem-solving, critically thinking, animal-saving fourth-year.

Each bit of the last four years served a very critical purpose in my growth. Each person I encountered taught me something I did not know about myself and drove me to become someone remarkable. 

To my support system and the folks in my corner, thank you a million times. You all are the reasons I made it through my greatest challenges.

Without these challenges, I would not have morphed from a wide-eyed first-year to a problem-solving, critically thinking, animal-saving fourth-year.

Every scoop of banana pudding is a little different. Sometimes you only get the cream and pudding. Those scoops remind you of the bliss and fascination of pursuing your purpose. Every so often, you run into a cookie – big or small. These scoops are the ones that bring the crunch to remind you that you cannot grow in the comfort zone, that tough times don’t last, only tough people do.

I am sure you now understand my undying love for this delectable dessert. I plan to enjoy the end of my time at the CVM and anticipate the beginning of my career the same way I indulge in a bowl of banana pudding.

No matter what scoop I get, I will enjoy every bite.

Shayla Jackson is from West Palm Beach, Fla., and focused on mixed animal practice at the CVM. After graduation, she will become an associate companion animal veterinarian at Banfield Pet Hospital in Greensboro, N.C.