Two metro teens take advantage of push for diversity in animal care

Two metro Atlanta teens with a passion for animals see a wide-open career field in veterinary sciences and took significant steps toward that this summer.

Chantia Fletcher and Elias Dennis were part of a paid veterinary internship program with Banfield Pet Hospital. They were among 15 youths selected nationwide from 150 applicants for the inaugural NextVet Internship.

Credit: spe

Credit: spe

The program gives diverse students an immersive opportunity to learn about careers in animal medicine. The profession has a longstanding lack of diversity and is facing a chronic shortage of professionals, said Dr. Beverly Miller, Banfield’s director of veterinary quality.

Miller said that children in underserved or socioeconomically challenged communities often don’t see veterinary medicine as a viable career opportunity. It’s especially true, she said, when they don’t see anyone in the profession resembling themselves.

“In Black communities, it is still rare for us to see ourselves in this profession which makes it difficult for us to encourage each other to envision and seek veterinary medicine as a plausible and successful career,” Miller said.

Miller said students need support and resources to see firsthand the different veterinary medicine options that are available. Last year, Banfield announced a nearly $10 million commitment to inspire high school students from underrepresented backgrounds to become the next generation of veterinarians.

Banfield’s NextVet interns were selected based on their creative submissions and for being exceptional, well-rounded students who love animals.

The future looks bright for Chantia and Elias as they pursue veterinary science. They’ve each wanted to follow this career path for some time.

Chantia, 18, participated in a veterinary science program at Grayson High School. She graduated in the spring and is attending Fort Valley State University as a USDA/1890 National Scholar, majoring in veterinary technology.

“Banfield has given me that great experience as I go into my degree,” Chantia said, “and I’m hoping to tie in what I learned there into what I learn in my classes.”

At Banfield Pet Hospital in Lawrenceville, Chantia helped with labs, learned how to handle each pet based on size and personality, and worked with clients.

She said it’s impressive how veterinarians, technicians and assistants rely on their patients’ bark and body language to find out what’s wrong. Working at Banfield has helped her better understand her pet dog Gracie, an 8-year-old Chihuahua mix.

“We’re almost like detectives,” Chantia said. “We really have to be the bridge between these pets and their parents on what’s wrong and getting them to feel 100%. There’s nothing better than getting a pet to feel their best.”

Elias, a 16-year-old junior at Charles R. Drew High School in Riverdale, said he liked everything about his summer job at Banfield Pet Hospital in Morrow. He helped with procedures and surgeries, like spaying. “I even liked putting in the notes after we finished,” he said.

Elias runs track at his school and is a leader in the Flint River Boys & Girls Club, where he was named the 2021 Youth of the Year and a runner-up in the metro-wide competition.

Elias was motivated to pursue animal medicine while working at Camp Kiwanis with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta. He would like to open a boutique line of veterinary clinics someday and offer his clients “a special family touch.”

He has a 3-year-old cat named Tuxedo – Tux, for short - and used to have a dog before his family gave it away as a service animal.

Credit: spe

Credit: spe

Elias said the Banfield staff made his summer job fun, and he was surprised to see how enjoyable the work could be, even in a professional and orderly animal hospital. He has three colleges on his wish list to attend – each with a vet school on campus.

Chantia also enjoyed her internship, as handling furry pets throughout the day is a mood lifter for anyone, she says. She is grateful to Banfield for the opportunity.

“It’s been almost like a springboard for me, building on that passion,” she said. “It’s a great field to be in overall. I’m excited about the future.”


Banfield is the leading veterinary care provider in the U.S., with 1,000 hospital locations nationwide.

In addition to Atlanta, NextVet interns worked at pet hospitals in Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland/Vancouver and Washington D.C.

To learn more or apply for next summer, visit