Helping furry friends look and feel fabulous while learning standards and practicing skills is on the class schedule for Thomas County Central High School Veterinary Science students.
The TCCHS FFA chapter recently received an FFA Grant for Growing totaling $4,692 to start an animal grooming service tied to the school’s CTAE Veterinary Science Pathway.
Dr. Nikki Smith, instructor and TCCHS FFA adviser said this grant helps make a dream reality.
“This has been a goal of mine since starting the Veterinary Science course/pathway in August 2017 and gaining industry certification in 2021,” she said. “I feel that my students will not only gain knowledge of veterinary science but gain confidence, learn teamwork skills, employability skills, and hopefully find joy in working with these animals.”
TCCHS CTAE Director Dr. Beth Adams said Nikki Smith is the perfect teacher for the school’s vet science pathway.
“She is always looking for ways to improve the program and provide students opportunities to participate in hands-on instruction,” Adams said.
Students like senior EmmaRae Smith, 18, are excited at the prospect of this firsthand option.
“I think it is a good idea because it provides us with hands-on experiences if we are interested in working at a vet’s office or, more specifically, grooming,” she said. “It also gives you more opportunities to try new things here at school. I also think that learning how to take care of animals is very important because almost everyone owns an animal.”
Senior Bailey Maroney, 17, would like to become a vet tech.
“I enjoy this class because we get to work with different types of animals daily, and I enjoy taking care of them,” she said. “Having opportunities like this [grooming service] can help us determine if we want to pursue a career in the field of veterinary science.”
According to the National FFA press release, Grants for Growing, or G4G, is a competitive nationwide grant program sponsored by Tractor Supply Company. It’s for middle and high school FFA chapters and supports developing or improving classroom-enhancing agricultural education projects through engagement activities.
Smith awaits the arrival of the purchased equipment, which she anticipates happening within the next month. Items covered under TCCHS’ grant include a grooming tub, grooming table, three-cage stainless steel kennel, vet scale, power dryer, mini cage dryer, grooming storage case, clipper/trimmer set, kennel/tool cleaner, aprons, ear cleaner, shampoo/conditioner, bath brushes, grooming book, and towels.
Once these arrive, they’ll set up the lab/work area. Also, TCCHS will collaborate with Southern Regional Technical College's Veterinary Technician program educators.
“SRTC's educators will be coming to visit with their senior students to demonstrate safe handling techniques, how to monitor animal behavior, etc., to prepare students for grooming,” Nikki Smith said.
Once students feel comfortable, they’ll begin accepting dogs from school staff once or twice a month.
“The clients must be up-to-date on all vaccines and have an even, well-behaved temperament, which will be evaluated prior to grooming,” Nikki Smith said. “Grooming services include a bath, blowdry, brush, ear cleaning, nail trim and health check.”
The program will strive to teach students in four sections: client intake, pet grooming, health checks and business management. Plus, grooming services directly align with Georgia Performance Standards for the Veterinary Science course.
“By offering grooming services, students are provided with a hands-on learning opportunity that closely reflects experiences at a veterinary clinic,” Nikki Smith said. “Students can perform health checks, including reporting weight, temperature, respiration rate, pulse, and overall appearance, all while gaining knowledge of animal behavior and restraint.”
The service will only take up to three dogs at a time. According to the grant application, the goal is to solidify self-sustaining “Grooming Days” by April 2024.
The instructor said her students are excited to begin the program.
“I think they are most excited about getting to see all of the different breeds that we have discussed so far in class, in addition to being able to love and play with a dog at school,” Nikki Smith said. “It should be a good day for both the students and the pet!”
Maroney can’t wait to learn while helping animals the program will serve.
“I am excited to learn something new about animals, like new grooming or handling techniques,” she said. “I also am looking forward to helping the animals. For example, if a dog comes in matted, we can remove the mats and help it feel better.”
EmmaRae Smith anticipates a satisfying learning experience.
“I think the process of grooming will be satisfying and give me a sense of pride in my work,” she said. “I also think that working with the animals will help me have a better mindset and relax or de-stress.”
Once the school year ends, teacher Nikki Smith and CTAE administration will evaluate the project’s success and determine whether to continue the program for the next school year.
“Our goal in CTAE is to give students as many real experiences as possible to develop real skills that lead to real careers,” Adams said. “This grant will allow students to experience one more aspect of animal care and better prepare them for a variety of careers in many different agricultural fields.”