Students at Pebble Hills, El Dorado and Eastlake high schools are taking advantage of the SISD veterinary technology program to get a full understanding of a career in animal care services.
“I know a lot of kids say they want to be a vet, but this actually gives them the experience to decide if this is really what they want to do,” said Reanna Rodecap, an agriculture science teacher at Pebble Hills High School. “They may decide they don’t want to be a vet though they still want to work with animals, so I think this opportunity gives them the chance to explore all of the different avenues.”
The Career and Technical Education program gives students hands-on experience and the opportunity to earn a level-one veterinary assistant certification by graduation.
Freshmen begin by taking a basic introduction course on plants and animals, and later, as they progress through the program, they learn how to care for dogs, cats, and other traditional house pets.
During their junior year, students gain knowledge and skills in caring for livestock, such as goats, sheep, and pigs.
With that experience and coursework, the students can then pursue their veterinary assistant certification in their senior year. In preparation for the certification, the students learn the basic skills needed to work in a veterinary clinic.
“This year we are proud to have more than 300 students enrolled in the program, at Pebble Hills alone,” Rodecap said.
Students must serve 300 clinical hours at local veterinary clinics. Once they earn the hours, they can take the certification test. With the level-one veterinary assistant certification, students can be hired at a clinic right out of high school.
SISD partners with El Paso Animal Services and other veterinary clinics throughout the city to ensure students are getting real-life practice. Daily work in these facilities allows students to learn basic handling of the animals, observing surgeries and, at times, helping with administering anesthesia.
“We are an open enrollment shelter, so with in-take, more help, more care, more assistance is needed,” said Rose Janice, volunteer coordinator at El Paso Animal Services. “We are excited to see these students through their journey and are hopeful that we will see them graduate as vet assistants.”
Currently, 17 SISD students are working at El Paso Animal Services and collectively have earned almost 500 volunteer hours at the shelter. They have learned how to care, shelter and socialize the animals, about animal behavior management, and applying medical services.
The students also have been helping treat cats for ringworm, spaying/neutering, and giving other forms of treatment to help prevent the spread of illness.
“This helps me gain experience as I work alongside other vets and vet assistants who help me learn and grow,” said Maria Martinez, a senior at Pebble Hills High School. “Being able to start early is really great and I’m super happy to be a part of this program.”