By Rob LeDonne
2002 Torrey Pines High School grad Sarah Cross was perusing her iPhone when she came across word of a contest. “Something about it spoke to me,” she says of the contest sponsored by Tourism Australia that promises a $100,000 salary and six-month gig working with animals in the country for a lucky few finalists.
“If I won, I’d be in South Australia working on Kangaroo Island, working with a variety of animals and sharing my experiences through blogs and social media,” Cross said.
The purpose of the contest is to promote working holidays and Australian culture, as well as bring awareness to the country’s native animals, something Cross has a passion for.
Cross was actually born in Australia (but hasn’t been there for over a decade), then moved to Texas while spending her summers in San Diego. While here, she developed a love of horses, caring for her own at a young age.
“I had been riding horses since I was 6 years old,” she remembers. “Even though I was so young, I understood and embraced all of the hard work that came with it, and that made me want to do more.”
With a love of animals, she then logged multiple summers as a volunteer at the Helen Woodward Animal Center, the famed animal shelter in Rancho Santa Fe. “It was not glamorous,” she readily admitted. “I would get there early and do things like clean out kennels and exercise the animals, but I loved every minute of it.”
Cross began living full time in San Diego during her junior year of high school, and later attended college at San Diego State and then Cal State San Marcos. Soon after school, she landed a job in Las Vegas as a Dolphin Care Specialist at the Mirage Hotel and Casino. When Cross found out about the contest, and the marriage of Australia and animals, she knew she had to submit and spent weeks putting together a submission video of her at her regular job with the dolphins. Said Cross: “I figured it’d be a great way to get attention.”
Cross was one of 45,000 people who submitted a video, so she waited and hoped for the best.
“Before announcing the finalists, they emailed me saying they liked my video,” Cross said, figuring it was a good sign. “When they posted the top 25 contestants for my position, I started scrolling through all of them and saw my video, which was near the bottom of the page. The second I saw I made it to the next round, I started crying and laughing at the same time.” Overall, more than 600,000 people applied to Tourism Australia and over 45,000 videos were submitted from 196 countries for six jobs, all vying for the experience of a lifetime.
Cross’ next step is to spread the word of her campaign to win, by whatever means necessary — including this article. “In stage two, we have to reach out through the community, friends and family, and compile everything. They want us to get high-profile people, which is lucky for me since I live and work in Las Vegas.” In addition, Cross has enlisted the help of some friends to vouch for her, including a friend who works at the San Diego Zoo as a bird trainer.
Cross won’t know until May 15 if she’ll make the last round, but is trying to do everything in her power to make her dreams come true. “I have some family there I’ve never met, plus other family I haven’t seen in years,” she explains. “Having been born there and loving animals, this would be amazing.”
To follow Cross and her quest, check her out on Facebook: