Instructor Julie Gilroy helps Bella Bertsch perfect her hold on canine volunteer James Bond. Cameron Park Life photo by Joe McNeilly

Cameron Park Life

Tails wag in this Ponderosa High class

By From page A1 | November 07, 2017

One lucky group of high schoolers gets to bring dogs to class instead of homework. These students are enrolled in Julie Gilroy’s Animal Health Careers course at Ponderosa High School, and they recently brought the dogs to practice canine restraints for various veterinary procedures.

The class is one of many offered to juniors and seniors as part of the Central Sierra Regional Occupation Program. “We have multiple Career Technical Education programs, including culinary, auto, cosmetology, medical and dental,” Gilroy said. “Kids from all over the district, as well as those in the public charter schools, can do CTE programs at any of the district schools.”

A quick poll of the current Animal Health class revealed that while the majority of the students were from Ponderosa, every El Dorado Union High School District campus plus a charter school were represented.

Central Sierra ROP courses provide occupational training and usually confer state-approved certifications in their fields. Two semesters of Animal Health Careers coursework earns students a certified veterinary assistant certificate from the state of California. The 500-hour certificate potentially opens many doors.

“They can go on to a two- or four-year college, become a registered veterinary technician or a veterinarian, or a groomer, or trainer, or wherever they want to go,” Gilroy said. Many local veterinary clinics have hired students credentialled via the program, and the certification has also helped students get animal-related retail jobs at pet and feed stores, according to Gilroy.

“My students learn skills with canines, equines, felines and when they go into a practice they’re not coming in cold,” Gilroy said. “They’ve got a little more safety savvy; they’re more knowledgeable about the medications, how to treat and restraint.”

ROP courses are an ever-more appealing option as young people search for ways to acquire valuable skills while avoiding the student loan debt.

“In the spring my class goes with FFA and other groups to the fairgrounds and shares Ag in the Classroom, where third-graders from all over El Dorado County come and are introduced to our programs,” Gilroy added. “At that age everybody wants to be a vet.”

Joe McNeilly

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