This year, the Tuscaloosa Career & Technology Academy will offer a new program with a unique subject: animals.
Starting Wednesday, 25 students will be enrolled in the new pre-veterinary science program at TCTA, where they will learn how to care for animals and how to deal with any ailments they may have. As part of the program, the school has acquired six sheep that will be kept on campus.
Carl Hughes, an agriscience instructor at TCTA, said he had formerly taught a veterinary program at the school that was textbook-centric and did not deal with live animals. However, interest in the program grew over the years.
"There was interest a couple of years ago," Hughes said. "From there, we decided to put together a pre-vet program."
Hughes said that the biggest change is having the sheep as part of the program. The first sheep that was brought, Betsy, is 5 months old and was brought from a farm in Jefferson County. Last week, many people at TCTA got to know Betsy when she accidentally wandered into the conference hall of the school following Tuscaloosa City Schools' literacy summit.
The other sheep in the program were brought in from other farms and do not have names yet, although Hughes is considering ways to have the community take part in naming them.
"We wanted to have live specimens to care for and deal with," he said. "TCTA is all about hands-on experience, and we thought that was a good way to get that experience."
Hughes decided on sheep for this year’s focus because of their docile nature and the way they are fairly easy to handle, compared with other animals.
"Students will explore pets and disease management for animals, as well as explore the different breeds of animals, such as livestock and exotic pets," he said. "We will begin learn how to check the vital signs for animals and learn about treatment of diseases."
Veterinary science is something Hughes and administrators at TCTA feel is important to the school's mission: training the next generation of workers needed in the community. In addition, Hughes said veterinarians who deal with different kinds of livestock are needed in the community and across Alabama. As of May 2017, there were about 980 veterinarians working in Alabama with an annual mean wage of $87,740, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In addition, TCTA is also working with veterinary instructors from Tuskegee University and Auburn University to help the program, perhaps by coming into class to teach and offer their expertise to students.
Danielle Morton, principal at TCTA, said it was important that her students get real-world experience in no matter what field they enter, in addition to having on-site training.
"To me, it’s just so vital that they have an opportunity right here to take care of them, to know all that goes into it," Morton said. "It’s not anything that is simulated; this is actually reality for them."
Hughes said that through the partnerships it is seeking with different colleges and veterinary clinics, there could be opportunities for students to either receive internships or scholarships to continue working in veterinary science.
Reach Drew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0204.