Warrick has always loved animals. Her desire to care for different creatures
led her to the University of North Florida to study biology. Since 1981, she’s
been rescuing and nursing sick animals back to health. Using her passion for
preservation, this UNF alumna has launched a successful career in nonprofit
“I always had an interest in caring for
animals, especially the exotic,” she shared. “But I needed a better
understanding of how to do it.
her zookeeper training award from the Los Angeles Zoo in 1984 — Warrick was one
of 20 students of 400 to make it to the final exam and work with animals in the
zoo for a year — UNF gave her the academic knowledge and hands-on training
needed to establish herself as a skilled biologist. Her degree, she said, was
the proverbial icing on the cake that gave her credibility as a serious
The savvy nonprofit founder
formed the St. Augustine Wild Reserve in 1995. Warrick said she never thought
she would run her own nonprofit. In fact, she always assumed she would become a
zoo veterinarian. However, after working in the field for a time, she said she
realized the world needed more conservationists.
She started out caring for
wolves, but she turned her gaze to big cats in the ‘90s, a move that brought
with it greater expenses and more difficult logistics. She soon realized her
wards required more assistance than she could provide alone. That led her to
apply for 501(c)(3) status.
Today, the Reserve hosts
tours Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Volunteers act as tour guides for the
seven-acre animal compound. Warrick’s biology background set the tone for these
tours, which include in-depth information about the white and orange tigers,
cougars, servals, coatimundis, lynxes and leopards that call the Reserve home.
“Not only can I care for
[the animals] better because I understand how to, but funding is easier to
acquire because I have the credibility of my UNF degree,” said Warrick, who is
finishing another UNF degree — this time a master’s degree in biology.
Her future plans for the
Reserve include transitioning to a fully accredited member of the Association
of Zoos and Aquariums.
“My dream is to become the
St. Augustine Zoo,” she said.
Warrick explained her dream
includes expanding the seven acres to an area large enough to house hundreds
more species of wildlife. She said the Reserve of today would not have come to
fruition without the encouragement she received during her time in UNF’s
biology program and the words of wisdom she received from faculty members,
especially Dr. Matt Gilg.
Warrick is just one of many
UNF grads to parlay their degrees into nonprofit success. Other alumni, such as
Jennie Davis, have found outlets for their passions by fulfilling positions
with established nonprofits. The common thread between them is that the
University taught them the skills and instilled in them the drive necessary to
excel in the nonprofit sector.
Davis is a UNF alumna who
found herself drawn to the nonprofit sector. The international business and
marketing major began her journey in the Coggin College of Business with
corporate aspirations. But by the time graduation came around in spring 2007,
Davis said she had “caught the nonprofit bug.”
Her time in the Students In Free Enterprise
club on campus inspired her to pursue leadership roles, and her Coggin classes
gave her the skills to work effectively in groups, lead teams and build
businesses. She brought these skills to bear as a member of the Peace Corps.
“I took the knowledge I had
and helped young women in Senegal make better lives for themselves,” she said.
“That was when I knew nonprofit work was for me.”
Davis spent 28 months in
Senegal, teaching community economic development, helping young people set up
businesses and showing them how to design business and marketing plans. She
imparted the same knowledge on financing capital ventures that she had acquired
at UNF. She said this work in the Peace Corps was an ideal transition from UNF
to the working world.
“I had the foundation of my
business basics,” she said. “My leadership skills were put to the test daily. I
had to take initiative and work with people who were different than me. These
were all skills and tools I learned while earning my international business
When her time was up with
the Peace Corps, she returned to Jacksonville and accepted a position with the
American Cancer Society as a Relay for Life coordinator. “In Senegal, the more
I gave of myself, the more I got back,” she said. “It’s the same at American
Much like her work with the
Peace Corps, her job has her focused on boosting youth involvement and working
with teams and groups made up of people from varied backgrounds.
“I truly enjoy the spirit
of Relay,” she said. “It’s celebratory, whether in tragedy or in triumph.”
Working for an organization
that has a goal to celebrate more birthdays offers Davis plenty of opportunity
to revel in that spirit. For Davis, the similarities between ACS and the Peace
Corps remind her of what being an Osprey means. “You have to put yourself out
there and really be part of the community,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to get
involved. Successful people are the busiest but still find time to give back to
Like Warrick, Davis keeps close
ties with the University. She serves on the Coggin Alumni Board, provides
student leadership and is a liaison link between businesses and students. Both
alumnae agree that nonprofit work is something every Osprey should try, even if
they don’t make it a career.
“You never know, though,” Davis said with a
wink. “You could find your life’s calling.”