BOSTON (CBS) — It looks like a typical trip to the veterinarian; a weigh-in for Ava, a skittish cat and a surgery for a dog named Isaac, but this clinic is at a vocational high school.
“It’s not like your typical high school experience,” says senior Rhiannon Corey, “it’s definitely different.”
The program, called “Tufts At Tech” is unique. Students at Worcester Technical High School work and learn right alongside doctors and residents from Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.
“So it’s the partnership that makes this unique model so interesting,” Director Dr. Greg Wolfus said.
“You get to learn so many different types of things from so many different types of people,” adds Rhiannon.
They call it a win-win-win.
While Dr. Greg Wolfus teaches Tufts residents, students like Rhiannon and Kayleigh Monahan experience what they would never get anywhere else and graduate with credentials.
“They’re not only going to have their high school diploma,” says Wolfus, “but they’ll have that certificate as a veterinary assistant to go in to lab animal medicine, primary clinical medicine, working in a research lab – whatever it happens to be – so they’re ready.”
And the local community benefits as well. All clients are pet owners in the Greater Worcester area who can’t afford traditional veterinary care.
“I like that,” says Monahan, “because now all the dogs are going to be vaccinated and they’re not going to get sick and then people aren’t going to stress out because they can’t afford the big medical bills.”
Tufts at Tech had humble beginnings.
“It started as a classroom with two stuffed animals and we’ve evolved into this wonderful program.”
Teacher Christina Melvin, a vet tech herself, sees the program as a way to give back to the career she loves.
“The fact that high school students get to have this experience and they get to tie in all of their education – English, math, science – everything they’re doing on the academic side ties in with this side as well.”
Meanwhile, Kayleigh and Rhiannon are on their way.
“I’m thinking about going in to exotic animals,” Kayleigh said.
“I want to be a vet – I wasn’t really sure before because I like animals – but now I know because I got experience with the vets and everything,” Rhiannon said.
The clinic sees 250 animals a month, all year round.
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Worcester Technical High School Principal Dr. Sheila Harrity was named Principal of the Year in 2013.
WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben spoke with Dr. Harrity.
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