Shelters Spotlight: How Being a Veterinarian for a Day Teaches Students Unexpected Life Lessons

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Shelters Spotlight: How Being a Veterinarian for a Day Teaches Students Unexpected Life Lessons Shelters Spotlight: How Being a Veterinarian for a Day Teaches Students Unexpected Life Lessons

Shelters Spotlight: How Being a Veterinarian for a Day Teaches Students Unexpected Life Lessons

by Alessandra Rizzotti, GOOD Partner

August 22, 2013

Student holds an anatomical model while a classmate in the background learns to read digital X-rays.

When people think of their local animal shelter, they might not think of it as an education and career-building organization. But the success of VBSCPA shows how shelters can help educate the community. Even without any advertising, the Be a Vet for a Day program is extremely popular and always full. In fact, the program has outgrown VBSPCA’s conference room and now has an official classroom. Many young prospective vets return to VBSPCA for the summer Critter Camp, where they learn about wildlife and visit state parks. Some students become junior shelter volunteers and eventually enroll in veterinary school or a science-related program. Shambo says, “When I hear these kids are participating in fundraisers or spreading the good word at their schools, and when they say they do those things because of what they learned through our program, it humbles us that we had that impact because we don’t have them for a great amount of time.” And while seeing animals in pain from an illness or injury makes some students realize they may not be cut out for a career in the veterinary world, Shambo sees it as another kind of valuable experience that can help steer students in a different direction that’s right for them.

With almost 28,000 eager student volunteers last year — due in part to a community service requirement for Virginia schools — the shelter’s education programs are thriving. To make an even bigger community impact, they’ve taught Standards of Learning lessons to about 56 school classrooms across Chesapeake, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach, and launched an award-winning reading program and green after-school “Scoop the Poop” program. They’ll also be implementing a counseling program in schools for behaviorally challenged kids. As VBSPCA’s programs continue to grow and expand, Shambo says she hopes youth in Virginia will not only learn how to treat animals more humanely, but also explore how pets and wildlife might fit into their career goals.

Photos courtesy of Virginia Beach SPCA

Alessandra Rizzotti More Info

Alessandra Rizzotti has written for GOOD, Little Darling, Idealist, Takepart, Heeb, Smith, Hello Giggles, Reimagine, and has been featured on The White House blog for her work on the editorial series “Women Working to Do Good.” The editorial series she created for GOOD, “Push for Good,” helped raise over one million dollars for crowdfunding projects in social impact, and she helped launch impact campaigns with GOOD for Purina, GAP, Focus Features, Google, Apollo, and National MS Society. She’s also been published in three Harper Perrennial books with her six word memoirs, as well as four monologue books for Hal Leonard/Applause in collaboration with Grammy winner and GOOD member Alisha Gaddis. Her video art has been featured in Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher’s “Learning to Love You More” Gallery at the Baltic Contemporary Art Museum. In her freetime, she volunteers with CASA, beekeeps with nonprofit organization Honeylove, and edits children’s chapbooks for 826 LA. At Backstage Magazine, Alessandra currently strategizes and writes Twitter chats (in which she’s garnered seven million impressions) and edits casting notices, where she bridges the gap between filmmakers and actors.
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