Last week, I signed, sealed, and mailed out certificates to the 64 Chicago area high school students that successfully completed the 2015-2016 session of our annual Veterinary Mentoring Program. This is one of the more popular programs that we run here at The Anti-Cruelty Society each year, but there are still a lot of young people that seem surprised to learn about it.
For this program, we partner with the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine to provide high school students with a serious interest in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine with information about different jobs that they may not have had much exposure to prior to joining the program.
Sessions are held once per month from September – April, with participants meeting at the Society’s Education & Training Center from approximately 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. each time. They are facilitated by a Society staff member and every month has a different professor from the college or a practicing veterinarian presenting on a different field of veterinary medicine. Some of the many topics covered each year include: shelter medicine, equine medicine and surgery, zoological medicine, animal behavior, veterinary ophthalmology, and small mammal surgery, among others. Participants earn a certificate of completion for attending at least 5 of the 8 sessions. The hope is that students can use their participation in this program to help give them a boost in securing internships or even admission into colleges once they’ve finished high school.
As a special treat, the University will also rent a bus to send the participants down to Champaign-Urbana on a Sunday in early October to go and see the college’s annual Open House event.
The requirements for inclusion in the program are that students must be in high school (grades 10 – 12) throughout the duration of the program they are applying for, have at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent for whatever scale their school uses), and have completed a high school-level biology course. At times throughout the program, the presentations will contain ideas or content that is best understood if participants to have at least a fundamental understanding of the biological sciences.
Compared to our other long-term Humane Education program for teens – the animal welfare-focused After School Program – the Veterinary Mentoring Program draws high schoolers with more specific academic and personal interests. However, because the program takes place on weekends and is very niche in its appeal to aspiring veterinarians (there simply aren’t many programs like it in and around Chicago), it actually brings in students from high schools all across the city, as well as many of the surrounding suburbs. In fact, 79 out of the 100 students who participated in this year’s program (aka, 79%) are from cities and communities outside of the Chicago city limits. Speaking Typing from a strictly personal standpoint, I think this (along with the close relationship we’ve developed with the University) is one of the program’s greatest benefits to the Society, as it helps us to expand and reach out to people who are not residents of the City of Chicago, while providing them with a unique service that they may not have access to in their own communities.
Most of the sessions are pretty standard lecture-based presentations, with the idea being to attempt to realistically mimic a college classroom situation (just another way that the program can help prepare aspiring vets for life after high school). Some are a bit more interactive, like the session on zoological medicine, where the doctor from the Brookfield Zoo brings in some interesting animal friends to meet the students (this year that included a hawk and a corn snake). However, the less obvious benefits of participating in the Veterinary Mentoring Program are the ability to network – not only with practicing veterinarians and professors from the University of Illinois, but also by meeting other peers from different high schools and communities that share an interest in working with animals. In many cases, these students would never have been brought together without the program.
If you have stumbled across this blog, live in or around Chicago, and know somebody (including yourself) who may be interested in the Veterinary Mentoring Program, you can learn more about it by clicking this link. Applications for the 2016-2017 program are currently available and can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that the application deadline for the upcoming program is July 31, 2016.