Veterinary Science CTE leads senior to a Gold Award at the Michigan State FFA Convention


Credit: KRESA

Abigayle Smith poses for a picture alongside fellow CTE students and course teacher, Dr. Noreen Heikes. All participants were required to submit a scientific inquiry to the competition.

Hannah Locke, Editor in Chief

Loy Norrix senior Abigayle Smith, is currently enrolled in the Veterinary Science CTE. Her weeks have been spent at Gull Meadow farms tending to animals, monitoring the class cat and learning with her fellow students about topics ranging from parasites to animal anatomy.
Smith’s most tangible success in this course can be seen in the Gold Award she received at the Michigan State Future Farmers of America (FFA) Convention.
The FFA Convention takes place annually and is an integral part of the Veterinary Science CTE: everyone must write and conduct a scientific inquiry to submit to the competition.

Dr. Noreen Heikes, course instructor, said, “This is a semester-long project for these students, and the majority of the work on their research takes place outside of class. So successful students typically have a huge amount of work into the project, including figuring out a question to research, doing background reading, actually designing and conducting their experiment, and then writing up a professional-level paper and creating a scientific poster.”

Inquiries fall into many categories: Environment and Natural Resource Systems, Animal Systems, Food Produce and Processing Systems, Plant Systems, Power Structure and Technical Systems.
Smith, in collaboration with Portage Central senior Madilyn Stratton, conducted her inquiry on the correlation between weather conditions and the presence of parasites in goats. This placed Smith and Stratton into the Animal Systems category.
“We went to a farm that my partner, Maddie Stratton, had access to, and we took fecal samples from the goats from each weather condition and we looked at them under a microscope,” Smith continued, “and then we look and see how many parasites were present and what kind of parasites were present.”

Smith and Stratton’s project took months of research, all to be consolidated into a poster and presentation. The combination of which won them a Gold Award at the Michigan State FFA Convention.

Smith and Stratton began their research in September, though their project wasn’t turned in until January for the first deadline.
“​​So we had our first turn-in and that was just the judges reading it. They read through all of the papers that were turned in in Michigan,” Smith said. “Then they narrowed it down to a good 100 or so.”
The next round was a virtual presentation and the pool was narrowed down to about 60 presentations. After that, Smith and Stratton were off to Michigan State University for the FFA Convention.
“They had this big room where you set up your poster and you had your binder with your essay and any notes you took that weren’t a part of the essay,” Smith continued. “Then we just left it there until we had our presentation time.”
Their presentation, officially titled “Weather Conditions in Correlation with Parasite Presence in Goats,” was placed in Division 6 of the competition, which means it fell into the animal systems category for partnerships.
“We won a Gold Award for our division,” Smith said, “It means we were in the top of our division in Michigan, which means we are going to nationals in October in Indianapolis.”
The Veterinary Science CTE program is a course offered by Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency (KRESA) to schools around Kalamazoo County, including those in Kalamazoo Public Schools.
The course is available to all seniors who have passed biology. Once students pass the class they gain their Veterinary Assistant Certification, which opens up a diverse array of career options from Veterinary Assistant to Livestock Inspector, and the course overall allows for an easier transition into Veterinary or Medical post-secondary learning.
The KRESA website states that the CTE “explores the topics of animal anatomy, medical terminology, hematology, health care and parasitology, restraint and handling, veterinary lab procedures and more.”
Pursuing courses outside of mainstream secondary education can be extremely beneficial for high school students who want to begin studying for their future careers. Smith’s award is only one example of a success outside of normal core classes, and it will allow Smith to move forward with a career in Veterinary Science if she wants to.

“This course is for you if you think you might be interested in veterinary medicine, are willing to work hard in a class that is very different from all your other classes, and embrace the adventure of learning,” Heikes said, “We cover a huge amount of material very quickly, do lots of hands-on learning and field trips, and push ourselves every day.”
Upperclassmen at Loy Norrix have an array of ways to complete courses outside of their normal core classes and get hands-on experience that connects to careers they may want to pursue in the future. These programs are known as Career and Technical Education (CTE). Students can pursue an EMT certification, become student teachers at KPS elementary schools, learn about the intricacies of law enforcement and more.
Researching one of these courses that may connect to a passion or career goal is a great way for students to gain real career experience that they wouldn’t be able to find in their normal English and math classes.
See your guidance counselor or read the high school Bulletin of Courses for more information on how to enroll.