Highland students join successful new Forbes vo-tech veterinary program early

Highland sophomore Rachel Kosakowski feels like she was lucky to get a place in the veterinary program at Forbes Road Career and Technology Center.

“I’ve wanted to be a vet for a long time,” said Kosakowski, 15. “I like animals.”

She is one of a crowd of students who rushed to enroll in the fledgling course which, in its second year, is already among the most in-demand on the Monroeville campus.

“There’s a long waiting list for this one,” Forbes executive director Edward McMullen said.

Highland School Board member Debbie Beale is excited about the new professional training opportunities and said she was surprised to learn that veterinary technology has overtaken cosmetology in popularity.

“For a long time, cosmetology was the upper class,” Beale said.

Founded in 1959, Forbes serves high school students in Highlands, Allegheny Valley, Plum and Riverview, among others in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh.

Melanie Longo, instructor in the veterinary science program, said the course was long overdue in a vo-tech setting.

“I can’t accommodate any more students in my class,” she said.

Its three-year program prepares students to enter the workforce after graduation.

“I promote continuing education, but not everyone is destined for college,” Longo said. “It gives them the opportunity to see if they want to get on the pitch.”

Students in Longo’s class learn the basics of animal health and welfare, including restraint, bathing, and medical registration. The third year of class offers the possibility of a work-study program.

At the start of this semester, students tested their new skills on stuffed animals, but progressed to using live dogs, including Longo’s Boston Terrier, Goose, which absorbs attention several times a week.

On October 6, students practiced restraint techniques on JJ, a golden retriever and a well-behaved “patient” who belongs to the school’s Special Populations Advisor, Stephanie Nejes.

Restraint skills would be used during routine exams or preparation for surgery, Longo said.

“Students who graduate from the program can successfully enter the workforce as a veterinary technical assistant or kennel assistant,” she said.

McMullen said the addition of veterinary science was based on student interest and employment trends.

The school is already looking to expand the offer, he said.

“We have one instructor and we could easily have two,” McMullen said. “We are seeing positive trends in other schools as the program becomes more popular in Allegheny County.”

Parkway West Career and Tech Center in Oakdale already has three instructors and AW Beattie Career Center in Allison Park has two.

Enrollments are increasing at Forbes across the board, McMullen said. About 775 students attend each day.

“I think this is a testament to the practical component of the courses,” he said. “The kids have missed this over the past year.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Tawnya at 724-226-7726, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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