Student Spotlight: Gillian Falls, Congressional Award Recipient and Equine Enthusiast


What do horseback riding, veterinary training, and ocean conservation have in common? These are all of the activities one 16-year-old is currently pursuing, all while continuing her studies as a sophomore at Laurel Springs. If this level of involvement wasn’t enough, Gillian Falls also has her sights set on a Congressional Award. Of course, this raises the bar significantly with its own set of requirements, but Gillie is up to the challenge. Setting and achieving goals is another one of Gillian’s specialties.
How Passion Blossoms into a Career
Equine MedicineGillian may have just started driving, but she’s been riding horses since she was five. Recently, she’s started to learn how to properly train them. Her love of horses has led her on the path to becoming a veterinarian and earning a DVM/PHD specializing in equine medicine. But veterinary science isn’t the only field of study she has an interest in. 
As a Laboratory Assistant at the Ocean Research & Conservation Association, Gillian is involved in the lab and out in the field. “This is a great experience because I get to work with a lot of amazing people.” Not only does she work with them, but Gillian is also given the opportunity to teach students and interns, and she recently had the honor of directing her own research study. “I was in charge of two other high school students, which was kind of challenging.” But did that stop her? Of course not.
A Drive to Succeed
So what keeps someone so motivated? “I have to keep up with my school work in order to do all of the other things I really love to do.” In addition to her work with horses and oceans, this also includes spending time with family and friends. “There is enough time to do everything if I stay organized and focused. I'm usually good at that, but not always. Most of what I do is inspired by my love of horses and science.”
Since keeping up with school is a top priority, Gillian and her family have found ways of integrating her studies with her busy schedule ever since she was in the fifth grade. After discovering she could take online classes and open up her schedule to pursue all of her passions, the decision was made. Gillian started taking two eighth grade-level classes at Laurel Springs and was hooked. “I liked the website and how available the teachers are. We decided that I would enroll as a full time high school student. I feel like I am getting a great education, and I will be well-prepared for college.” 
Setting Higher Limits
Congressional AwardNot only is Gillian preparing for college, she’s also just completed the requirements for a Gold Medal-level Congressional Award. This requires 400 hours of volunteer work, 200 hours of personal development work, and 200 hours of physical fitness. Why go for the gold? “I thought it would be a good way to practice setting a big goal and sticking with it. I have pretty big goals for my future.” If anyone knows about accomplishing a goal, it’s Gillian. 
As college approaches, Gillian continues to gain experience training horses, learning veterinarian medicine, and conducting ocean research. She’s in the process of narrowing down undergraduate college choices where she plans to major in Animal Science/Pre-Vet. “I have a lot of ideas of what I want to do over the course of my career.”  As someone who’s consistent in seeing her passions through, it’s only natural to believe the sky’s the limit.