For the last two years I have had the pleasure of working with students from San Luis Obispo High School’s FFA program. SLO High Ag Department teacher, Anna Bates and I have been friends for many years and I was honored when she reached out for my help. Last year was their first year competing in the Veterinary Science competition. The competition changed a little from last year, and during the 2013-2014 school year, this group of 5 Sophomore girls-Hailey, Brynn, Darcy, Amber and Clare-learned everything from identifying breed and parasites, to surgical instruments, medical math equations, and animal handling skills. We worked closely together every week to master all of the parts of this test, especially the practical part of the test where they had to demonstrate certain skills, like holding dogs and cats for veterinary procedures, how to remove bandages, fill syringes, and clean ears. Though these skills were demonstrated on stuffed animals, the girls had to talk through what they were doing and treat the stuffed animals as if they were real. These girls are excellent public speakers, and mastered these practicum well. We had Dr. Bisson and Dr. Markoff stand in as judges a few times for them to practice. Throughout the school year, they competed all over the state, winning several of the contests, as a team and as individuals. The only team to beat them all year was a team of seniors. It all came down to state finals at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo on May 3, 2014. Brynn, Hailey and Darcy all finished in the top 5 for individuals, and the team dominated the state finals, winning all 3 parts of the contest and becoming State Champions!
By winning the state championship, these girls earned the right to compete for a National title at the National FFA Convention in Louisville, KY at the end of October. We have been very busy preparing for this competition as there are different and more difficult aspects to it than the state competition had. One of the biggest parts of it is a 15-minute team presentation on colic in horses. These dedicated girls spent a lot of their summer vacation studying and practicing. We took a field trip to the vet school at UC Davis last month, and were able to meet with veterinary specialists to further their knowledge and understanding of the different aspects of veterinary medicine and how it pertains to their competition. They also gave their presentation to a group of veterinarians and vet students. They have also traveled around SLO to practice this presentation, including a visit to Animal Care Clinic to get some feedback.
We are now counting down the days until the National competition-please wish us all luck, as we hope to bring a National title home to San Luis Obispo! If you are wondering why I will be gone from October 27-November 1, it’s because I’ll be accompanying these girls on the final part of this two-year-long journey!