Gillian Phillips, 17, Senior
North Springs Charter High School
Gillian Phillips has always loved animals. At home, she has four dogs, three cats, six lizards, three hamsters, a fish and a frog — most of which the family rescued.
“It’s like having my own personal zoo at home,” said Gillian, the daughter of Ginger Harbin and Lisa Alexander, both of whom work in the Fulton County School System.
Gillian’s family began rescuing animals when she was young, and as a result she has developed a lifelong passion for animals and wildlife. When she was 14, she joined Zoo Atlanta’s Volunteen program, which allows young adults ages 14 to 17 to volunteer and build their leadership and job skills. Gillian recently applied for an internship at the zoo that would give her hands-on experience with handling and taking care of the animals.
“The conservation message that you can get across at a zoo is really good for society,” she said.
In addition to volunteering at Zoo Atlanta, Gillian is currently in training as a docent at the Chattahoochee Nature Center, where she will give guided tours, help out with children’s birthday parties and eventually handle animals.
Over the summer, she attended the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program (GHP) at Valdosta State University, where she majored in biology and minored in Spanish.
“It was amazing just to see all these people who loved their field of study just being able to focus on that,” she said.
At North Springs, Gillian is in the Science Magnet program. However, this year, she is taking all of her classes at Georgia Perimeter College as a part of a joint enrollment program. Gillian attends classes on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays and spends Mondays and Wednesdays volunteering at the zoo and working at Chik-fil-A.
While working at Chik-fil-A last year, Gillian and her classmate received inspiration for their Science Fair project, which measured the effectiveness of Chik-fil-A’s sanitizer against E. coli and Serratia marcesans bacteria in comparison to bleach. The project earned them first place in the North Springs competition and second place at the county level.
As a Super Honor Roll student, Gillian does not find it difficult to balance academics and her various extracurricular commitments inside and outside school. At North Springs, she is involved in National Honor Society, Science National Honor Society, Beta Club and Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA).
“I don’t personally feel like I’m doing so much,” Gillian said. “It’s just a natural thing for me to always be moving.”
Gillian hopes to triple-major in microbiology, zoology and animal behavior science at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Fla., where she would be able to take classes at the school’s teaching zoo and directly learn zoo protocol.
She would ultimately like to become a zoo veterinarian.