A teenage girl in a sweatshirt, sweatpants and rainboots handles two alpacas on a leash. The alpacas are white but dirty, especially around the ankles. Hair covers the alpacas eyes. They are standing on a gravel road. In the background is a grassy area and large water containers for the alpacas.

Mt. Blue Principal’s Award recipient Isabelle Decker began working at an alpaca farm to gain some experience working with larger animals in preparation for her goal to become a large-animal veterinarian. Photo courtesy of Isabelle Decker

FARMINGTON — Isabelle Decker, an aspiring veterinarian from Chesterville, has won Mt. Blue High School’s 2021 Principal’s Award.

Decker, 18, was surprised to learn she was the recipient in her graduating class, though it made her “really happy.”

Interim Principal Joel Smith said Isabelle was picked out of 10-15 other students because “she’s an outstanding citizen at Mt. Blue” who “leads by example” and “has a quiet confidence about herself.”

“Whatever Izzie decides to do, she’ll be successful at it … she’s got that work ethic,” Smith said. “She’s a motivated individual that will do good things.”

The principal’s award is given through the Maine Principal’s Association to a select student from every graduating class. The recipient is selected by the principal, the guidance counselors, and administrative team at Mt. Blue.

Decker spent her high school career in Advanced Placement courses and participating in recreational and competitive dance, the Interact Club, as a class officer and as president of the National Honor Society.

However, Decker says animals have been her true “passion” over the years. Decker has worked at Just Alpaca Farm in Farmington every Saturday for five years, where she said she has created “chaotic and hilarious” memories over the years.

Decker referred to the alpacas as “quite something.” She said they have a penchant for “weird noises” you’d hear in Star Wars and describes them as “so sweet,” but Decker said she’s experienced her fair share of alpaca bites – though it doesn’t really hurt.

She has also raised quail and guinea hens and helped care for her sick dog.

“I’ve always been an animal person. That’s my favorite. It’s a passion of mine, she said. “I just like taking care of animals … One of the big reasons was probably my dog, Tucker. He had diabetes and taking care of him, I realized that that’s what I want to do with my life.”

Decker’s current goal is to adopt a donkey. Her mom, who’s otherwise very supportive of Decker’s aspirations, is not yet on board with that one.

Decker will study zoology and possibly, pre-veterinarian studies at the University of Maine in the fall. Afterward, she hopes to live on her own farm and work as a veterinarian for large animals “here in Maine because we have a big need for large animal vets.”

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