Nicholas Garey and his dog, Merlin, sit May 13 at their home in Minot. The Poland Regional High School senior plans to become a veterinarian because of his passion for animals. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

POLAND — Nicholas Garey loves animals and science. To him, studying to become a veterinarian seemed like a perfect fit.

But he wanted to be sure.

From November until March, the Poland Regional High School senior interned at the Norway Veterinary Hospital once or twice a week to observe surgeries and routine appointments, to help with basic tasks and to learn more about the realities of veterinary medicine.

“I wanted to get a feel for how it actually is on the job site (and) make sure that this is what I wanted to do,” he said.

One thing that surprised him was how organized the surgeries were: They were “really well-organized, a lot more organized than I would think they would be,” he said. “Everyone knew where they’re supposed to (be) and what to do and how to do it without any hesitation.”

One of the most interesting surgeries he observed was the removal of a dog’s eye.


“Getting some experience hands-on was good, and it really confirmed my passion to be a vet,” he said.

This fall, the Minot native will study biology with a focus on pre-veterinary studies at the University of Southern Maine.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York offered to cover two-thirds of his tuition through scholarships, Garey said, but the cost was still far more than local public universities.

“I have to keep explaining that to people,” he said. “I don’t want to enter graduate school already like $200,000, $300,000 in debt.”

The extensive education required to become a vet doesn’t scare Garey: “I’m used to going to school for a long time, so what’s another eight years?” he said.

Over the past year, his main focus has been earning the best grades possible while taking the most difficult classes he could. This drive earned him the No. 2 spot in the Class of 2023. Courses such as Advanced Placement biology, and AP chemistry and physics have been some of his favorites.


“Science is different from the other courses that are typically available,” he said. “It’s more hands-on, more learning about the world we live in, knowing there’s more advanced science courses out there, it’s just exciting.”

Garey’s determination isn’t isolated to his academics or career goals. He also competes for the school’s golf and track and field teams.

As a sophomore, sprints coach Eric Hall said Garey was an unremarkable athlete. Now, he’s one of the best sprinters in the state.

“He just works and works and works and works and works,” Hall said. “He just wants to be better, and he’s getting better.”

At the Class B indoor track and field state championships in February, Garey placed second in the 200-meter dash and third in the 55-meter dash. His 200-meter time of 23.01 was the fourth-fastest among Class A and B state championship performances.

“He’s improved substantially every year, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he acts,” Hall said. “When he accomplishes his goals, he just goes about his business in such a way that is just very humble.”

Garey will continue to compete for USM’s track and field team.

“He’s going to be successful whatever he does,” Hall said. “He is. You can just see it. It’s how he works on the track and conducts himself around people. He’s just very good at the things he does, and he goes about it the right way.”

This is the 10th article in a series featuring high school seniors as graduation season nears. In the series, the Sun Journal will profile a randomly chosen top 10 student or the equivalent from 16 high schools in central and western Maine.

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