Ambitious, hard-working, intelligent people aren’t hard to find throughout Emanuel County. From lesser-known citizens to well-known leaders, Swainsboro and other municipalities in the area are fortunate to call these folks, the ones who make a difference, “ours.” Of course, some of “our folks” have moved off and shared themselves with the world in various respects. The “Finding Our Folks” part of The Crossroads Chronicle aims to track down and catch up with our hometown people.
This week’s profile features Noelle Cann, whose interview was conducted by Halei Lamb.
Okay, start at the beginning. Give a little background about yourself.
Cann: My name is Noelle Cann. I’m 27-years-old, and I’m from Swainsboro. My parents are Chris Cann and Missy Cann. I have one younger brother, Drew Cann. I graduated from Swainsboro High School in 2011.
What came after high school for you?
Cann: From 2011 to 2013, I attended East Georgia State College and majored in general studies. From 2013 to 2015, I went to Georgia Southern. I knew I wanted to work with animals and I’ve always been interested in science in general, so once I got to Southern, I studied biology. I graduated from with a Bachelor of Science in Biology.
Talk a little bit about your work history.
Cann: I worked at Dominos, a family business, starting in elementary school all the way through college and even after I graduated with my bachelor’s. I drove to Swainsboro from Statesboro every weekend during my two years at GSU to work at Dominos as a delivery driver.
After graduation in December 2015, I worked until summer 2016 and applied for internships at zoos across the United States. I was lucky and landed my first internship at Zoo Atlanta during the summer of 2016 and didn’t have to make a huge move across the country. I moved to Atlanta and started working with hoofstock and African species like giraffes, a black rhino, ostrich, and multiple African antelope species. During this time, I was unpaid and got a part-time job as a hostess at a restaurant to bring in some income.
After my internship with the hoofstock department ended, I immediately got another internship at Zoo Atlanta in the fall working with the ambassador animals. I was hands-on with a ton of different species of animals: ferrets, snakes from all around the world, chinchillas, armadillos, baby gators, a tarantula, opossums, hedgehogs, and more!
After that, I decided to turn to the aquatic world and get some experience with the marine side of things. I landed my third internship in January 2017 at Georgia Aquarium in the pinniped department, being one of three. I was part of the first group of interns the pinniped department had. In April 2017, I got my first job in the animal care field as the first apprentice trainer in the pinniped department at Georgia Aquarium. In almost four years, I’ve gotten promoted two times—from an apprentice trainer with no animal experience to a trainer with close to four years of experience. Today, I care for and train 14 California sea lions and three harbor seals, perform public presentations and guest encounters to educate the public about the amazing adaptations these animals have, help organize dives to clean the pools and certify divers for the pinniped department, and mentor interns and new staff to the department.
What are your future plans, short-term and long-term?
Cann: My short-term professional goal is to get promoted to senior trainer. To do that, I need 5+ years experience. My long-term goals are to settle down and own my own place somewhere—not necessarily in Georgia, though. Professionally, I’d love to dabble in the PR or marketing world for a long-term career.
Where all have you lived outside Swainsboro?
Cann: I lived in Statesboro for college from 2013 to 2015, and I moved to Atlanta in 2016 and have been here ever since.
When you first moved away from home… What was that like?
Cann: I first moved away to go to Southern in Statesboro. It was nice, moving out and being on my own living with one of my best friends that I also went to high school and East Georgia with. I wasn’t far from home, so it was nice being close enough to always have the option to seem my family and friends. Even now living in Atlanta, I have freedom and my own little life up here, but I’m still within a couple hours of home and can visit on my days off.
Talk a little more about living in your current city. What do you like about it? What’s difficult about living there? How is it different than home?
Cann: I moved here to work an internship at the zoo. Not everywhere has a zoo and aquarium, and it’s nice that Atlanta is somewhere I can work and be close to home. I’ve grown to love the city life and Atlanta in general. It’s a literal melting pot, and that’s what I love about it. I love meeting new people with different aesthetics and mindsets. I love trying new things, whether it’s food or a new experience—and there’s plenty of that here. There’s always something to do or a place to go for any type of vibe or mood you’re in. If I had to name the worst part of living here, it would be the traffic.
What do you miss about Swainsboro?
Cann: I miss the small-town feel sometimes. I enjoyed going to places, seeing familiar faces, and the southern hospitality. I still find myself raising my hand on the wheel while driving by other cars in Atlanta just to give a nice little hello.
How often do you get to come home? When you do, what are your priorities?
Cann: I come home multiple times a year on my days off since I’m not too far away. I like to surprise my parents on birthdays or holidays. Usually, it’s only for a night or two. I always try to make plans with at least one of my friends and god family while I’m home.
How did growing up in Swainsboro help get you where you are today?
Cann: Growing up in Swainsboro and, more specifically, working in my dad’s business from such a young age definitely instilled in me a great work ethic. I grew up around a lot of really great people in Swainsboro. From my church family to my classmates, all of those people, whether good or bad, have helped me grow and get to where I am today.
Who are some namely influential people in your life and how so?
Cann: My parents and my godmother, Cissy Peebles, have really influenced me. All three of them are such amazing humans with great qualities that just inspired me to become a hard-working, empathetic, social, successful adult. I learned a lot from them growing up and could never thank them enough for supporting me in everything I do.
Do you have any advice for young people who might read this?
Cann: Follow your dreams! It sounds so cliché, but it’s something I have grown very passionate about. Even if your dreams are out of the norm or can’t be done or achieved where you are now, always follow them! Get out there and do what you love! The key, though, is hard work. Nothing comes free.