Broward County

Students Take Veterinary Assistant Certification Exams at West Broward High School

In the process, they gave us a glimpse into what school might look like next year.

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School campuses have been shut down since March. The 2019-20 school year ended more than a week ago. So why were 15 students inside West Broward High School Wednesday taking an exam?

Some of the kids are moving away, and some are technically alumni, having graduated already. 

They were there to take the exam to become certified veterinary assistants. In the process, they gave us a glimpse into what school might look like next year. The students were roughly 10 feet apart, they were wearing face masks, and they were sitting in a large space being used as a classroom, the cafeteria. 

“I think it’s important because a lot of us kids really want to pursue this as a career,” said graduate Penelope Gomez, speaking of the certification exam. 

West Broward High has the county’s only veterinary assistant program. Students take five courses over three years, but to earn their industry certification, they must pass a proctored exam, which is obviously a problem during the pandemic. So program director Tara Terribile called Broward County Public Schools, offering to volunteer her time. 

“I said we really need to find a way to get these students to get certified, and they agreed, and they said we can’t have our kids do all do all that work and have that much passion towards something and then leave without that certification,” Terribile said. “Essentially, my kids would’ve done all of those classes and gone through that education without the opportunity to get certified at the end.”

School board member Donna Korn got involved in the effort. 

“Ms. Terribile said I’ll donate my time, they needed another proctor, they found another teacher who was willing to donate her time as well. West Broward High School said we’re on board, administration said absolutely, we want to make this happen for our kids and so we were able to put the opportunity together for them to social distance and yet still come back and be able to get certifications,” Korn said. “The reality is, being able to deliver for our students is what’s crucially important.”

The seniors have already lost so much to the pandemic, and the grown-ups were determined to make this opportunity happen for them.

Her students had “a sense of relief,” Terribile said. “I think they were all very scared that they had done all of this and put all of this time in and they weren’t going to get the reward at the end.”

“I think it’s really good and I’m glad they did it because they know how much it means to us and we’ve worked for the past few years to get it done,” said college-bound student Angela Nelson.

“They also reached out to us and made sure we took practice exams before we actually had the exam today,” Penelope added.

The preparation worked. Every student in the room Wednesday passed the exam. 

So armed with their certifications, many of these students will end up working in veterinary clinics while they’re in college. You might see one taking care of your dog or cat the next time you go to the vet. 

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