WARREN COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) - A group of high school seniors, who graduated from the Warren County Career Center’s Vet Science program, were celebrated with a unique ceremony at the Humane Association of Warren County on Sunday.
The ceremony was set up in the parking lot at the humane association because of the coronavirus.
“We have to have social distancing. We have to wear masks," Joanne Hurley, the executive director, said. "This is why we decided to do an outdoor one. We decided to have the cars parked, so we could make sure we had that distancing.”
The 12 students “walked” the sidewalk at the humane association, a place they have partnered with as part of the career center’s vet sciences program.
“It’s a wonderful model for any other vocational schools and shelters," Hurley said.
Adoptable animals from the shelter are sent to the classroom. Hurley said the high schoolers then team up with veterinarians to help them pinpoint treatments and perform surgeries.
It gives the students a real-life, hands-on experience.
“They just work with our animals since we constantly have an influx of animals, constant need for surgeries, spays and neuters, constant need for medical attention," Hurley said. “They also will foster some of our cat mommas with nursing litters and things like that.”
In September 2019, the seniors helped the shelter staff members work a hoarding case involving dozens of poodles.
“We spent a whole week here just coming and helping 111 poodles - shaving them, bathing them, trying to get them comfortable,” Emily Matthews, a graduate, said. "It was definitely a crazy week.”
Matthews is now planning to pursue a career in the field.
She said she is first getting a bachelor’s degree in biology and business before going after her doctorate to become a vet.
“I learned a lot just at the clinic, being there, working one-on-one with patients and clients, getting that experience," Matthews said. “You come into the lab, you get all this experience with 40 plus exotic animals, learning how to take care of them, learning their behaviors.”
Shelter staff members said they are thankful for the seniors and wanted to shower them with gratitude by doing something special for their graduation.
“This does a lot to boost their confidence," Hurley said. “They’re all such animal lovers. I just hope they go away, and they’re successful from this experience.”
All graduates received gift bags and were encouraged to decorate their vehicles.
Hurley hopes other schools and shelters will consider implementing similar programs.