16 December 2016

INNOVATE - New Approach to the Technical High School Model

For pet owners in Worcester, MA, the Tufts at Tech Community Veterinary Clinic offers low-cost, high-quality veterinary care for clients who pass the prequalification process.

Clients are restricted to pet owners facing financial hardship, including people in programs such as WIC (Women, Infant, and Children), SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), WHA (Worcester Housing Authority), and students at Worcester Technical High School.

One of these things is not like the others.

Why are students at Worcester Tech given priority access to the preventative and primary care at the clinic?

Because a significant portion of that care is provided by high school students in the Worcester Technical High School Veterinary Assisting program.

(Tufts at Tech)
Tufts at Tech is an innovative program that combines the expertise of fourth-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students from Tuft’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine with the enthusiasm of high school students, under the careful supervision of Dr. Greg Wolfus and his team.

Getting high school students into the clinic and providing hands-on experience and mentorship has resulted in a significant increase in the success rate of students who go on to take their veterinary assistant exam after graduation.

Prior to the student-run clinic opening in mid-2012, the pass rate was only 46 percent. By 2013 the pass rate was 92 percent, and in 2015 it was 100 percent.

In addition to the clear benefits for students’ future career success, the program also keeps the students happy and engaged.

According to Drew Weymouth, assistant principal for Allied Health and Human Services at the high school, their retention rate in the program is 100 percent.

In 2013 Worcester Tech was recognized as one of the National Blue Ribbon Schools, an award that honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students perform at very high levels or where significant improvements are being made in students’ levels of achievement.
The school is good for both the high school and the veterinary school students, and it’s good for the low-income pet owners who can now access necessary care for their animals.

More than that, though, the school represents one way forward for a generation struggling to find work after years of recession.

Debt, joblessness, globalisation, and a rapidly rising cost of living have left today’s youth in what can seem like an impossible economic position.

Hands on training, like that provided at Worcester Technical High School, means that high school students graduate with skills that can immediately be applied in the workforce.

The school focuses on technical trades – they offer the Veterinary Assisting Program, but also have programs for design and engineering, health and human services, construction technology, and IT and business services.

This means that the school is, as President Obama stated in the school’s 2014 graduation address, “an example of what’s possible when we stop just talking about giving young people opportunity, when we don’t just give lip service to helping you compete in the global economy and we actually start doing it.”

Students leave with certifications in their chosen trade, meaning there’s a significant step cut out, both in terms of cost and time, before they can enter the workforce. And the trade school offers low cost services to the community, exemplified by the veterinary clinic.

Although automation and globalization are changing the economy, and more and more workers are moving sideways into the gig economy with all the challenges that entails, innovative schools like Worcester Technical High School may give young workers a new source of hope.

About Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a writer, editor, academic, and animal lover who came late to her appreciation of pets. At 18, a rescue pup named Tasha saved her from a depression and she hasn't looked back. She has worked as the canine behaviour program coordinator for the Calgary Humane Society, and was a dog trainer specializing in working with fearful and reactive dogs for many years. She doesn't have any pets right now, but makes up for it by giving her petsitting clients (and any dogs she comes across on her frequent coffee shop adventures) extra snuggles.

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