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Local teen graduates high school early to pursue veterinary dreams

Local teen graduates high school early to pursue veterinary dreams

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BRISTOL, Va. — One young lady from Southwest Virginia isn’t horsing around when it comes to school. Or perhaps more accurately, she blazed her way through school so she could spend more time horsing around.

Kate Geisler, 15, has always been crazy about critters. She grew up with an amalgam of animals — everything from fish to hamsters to dogs. At age nine, she started riding horses and never looked back. Now she owns five horses, ranging from a small pony that was her first horse to a 17.1 hand thoroughbred that she is training to be a hunter and jumper. She and her four-year-old barrel racing horse she trained herself, Dixie Grace, recently won first place in the 3D Youth Division in Rural Retreat, Virginia, an accomplishment of which she is very proud.

“Horse riding is a major part of my life,” Geisler stated. “I’d much rather be out with my horses than doing anything else. Horses are pretty much all there is for me.”

The daughter of two lawyers, Geisler has never been allowed to skimp on school, in spite of her single-minded dedication to horses. Her father, who works with PennStuart law firm in Abingdon, Virginia, and her mother, a Virginia Supreme Court Justice, have both have encouraged her to make the most of her education. But Geisler was more concerned with getting school finished so she could spend more time at the barn.

When Geisler transferred from St. Anne Catholic School, a private school, to public school at Wallace Middle, she skipped the 7th grade and went straight into 8th grade. Upon entering 9th grade at Virginia High School, Geisler couldn’t wait to finish school, even though she was a strong student.

“Geisler was always a very inquisitive and passionate student,” said Chris Cox, English teacher at Virginia High School. “Even as a freshman, she was very forthcoming and confident.”

With her characteristic tenacity and drive, Geisler investigated options to speed up her studies. Her research turned up Penn Foster, an online curriculum that allows students to earn an accredited high school diploma. Geisler took online classes through Penn Foster while attending Virginia High School; the credits from Penn Foster transferred directly to her Virginia High diploma.

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This May, Geisler graduated magna cum laude from Virginia High School at the young age of 15. In total, it took her only one year to complete high school from start to finish. This fall, she enrolled in the biology program at Virginia Highlands Community College. She plans to transfer to Virginia Tech or University of Virginia to complete her degree, and then intends to go to veterinary school.

“I have loved animals my whole life,” Geisler explained. “I worked with a small animal vet last summer and it was so much fun. It was an amazing experience. I’m so glad I got to do that and be around other people who love animals and learn about a veterinary clinic.”

Her veterinary aspirations play into her many strengths: her excellence in studies, her love of horses and her gift for helping others, the latter of which she has shown great capacity in many aspects of her life.

While at Virginia High, Geisler participated in a student service program through which she helped students struggling in English, a subject that Geisler excelled in. She assisted students with comprehension, writing or any aspect in which they were having problems.

“Geisler was always at her best when she was helping other people,” Cox noted. “When she is put in a position to help someone else succeed, that is when her best qualities and character traits present themselves.”

Geisler’s best qualities really shone through during a terrible riding accident when she was riding horses with friends. One of the riders, the adult in the group, was badly injured — breaking her back in eight places and five ribs — when her horse threw her. Only 14 years old at the time, Geisler quickly took charge of the situation, securing and handling the three horses in the group, calling 911 and heading out to the nearest road to meet paramedics and lead them back to the scene.

Vinny Ringrose, a longtime friend of Geisler’s family, feels that Geisler’s response during this emergency illustrated her maturity, compassion and ability to manage a crisis situation.

“I think it’s remarkable for someone so young to stay calm and take charge of the situation at such a critical moment,” Ringrose said. “Geisler is someone who is willing and able to take action immediately if it’s required to help someone in need. Not many people older than her would have been that focused and confident in such a serious situation.”

Laura J. Mondul is a freelance writer. Email her with Hometown Stories ideas at

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