GAINESVILLE - On Tuesday, November 7, 41 students arrived at Bethlehem High School at 4:30 a.m. to load a bus and travel to Gainesville, Florida. The plan for the day was to tour the campus of the University of Florida in the morning with a bonus tour of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in the afternoon.
The trip was arranged with the intent to get students, specifically freshmen students, thinking about their future.
"We want our students to know what kind of opportunities could be waiting on them when they graduate if they put in the time and the dedication to their academics and get involved with various organizations within the school during their four years in high school," said teacher Carrie Hayford.
While on the tour, students met with an admissions adviser for the university. One of the many highlights of the trip was getting to see The Swamp, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
"The stadium was really cool; it was much bigger than I imagined it would be," said sophomore Isabella Watford. "I also seeing all of the students. Everywhere you looked, there were people studying, which made me realize that college is going to be tough, but that it’s a challenge I’m ready for."
"It was really interesting to see a big name college in person," said freshman Emily Elmore. "Learning about the history of the college and seeing the sculptures on campus was cool."
In addition to the main campus tour, students had the opportunity to tour the University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The tour began in the Meats Lab where students walked through the school’s own meat processing unit.
Following the tour of the meats lab, students met with Dr. Matt Hersom, a ruminant nutritionist, to learn about how cattle digest food. Delores, a fourteen year old Holstein cow used for research at the college, was willing to let the students take a look inside her stomach. Students were familiar with what feed for a cow looks like going in and coming out, but getting to see it in the process of digestion was a whole new experience.
Delores has a fistulated stomach that Ag students use to study animal nutrition. Bethlehem students were given the opportunity to reach inside Delores’ stomach and see her afternoon snack first hand. Bethlehem Senior, Jake Zauner was first in line for what he calls a "once in a life time experience."
"Who gets to put their hand inside a live cow’s stomach on a regular basis? It was cool - gross, but cool," Zauner shared.
The tour finished with a trip to the Beef Teaching Unit lead by Chipley native Jesse Savell, who is employed by the university as the Unit Manager and an Instructor.
The Beef Teaching Unit is a 65-acre farm that maintains various breeds of cattle and feed yard. Students were able to walk through the newly built facility, take some time in the classroom it houses, and view the living facilities that the program offers its work study students.
"It would be a great opportunity to have a chance to go to school and work in facilities like what the research unit had," said senior Kross Smith, who hopes to pursue a degree in the agriculture discipline of Forestry. "It makes me realize I have to apply myself even more to be in a good standing to attend, let alone be accepted, but I think I can do it."