Young Animal Whisperer Explores Career Options with Mentor

Ten year old Nicole Lowe didn’t get to sleep in on her first day of spring break.   The Bidwell School 4th grader was up and out the door on April 18 to experience life in a veterinarian’s office with her mentor, Wanda Schuler. The two took advantage of Nicole’s more flexible schedule to meet up with veterinarian Megan Fox-Chow and vet tech Ana Rodriguez at Valley Vet.

Nicole, a self described animal lover, had expressed to Schuler an interest in veterinary medicine.  “Every animal that I come near, it just likes me,” says Nicole, “even if it’s a mean one.” As a mentor in the Tehama County Mentoring Program, Schuler sought out the opportunity to have Nicole spend some time with a female veterinarian.

“When I first heard Nicole say she wanted to be a veterinarian when she grew up, I thought to myself, that’s great but it will probably be something new next week and something else the week after that”, says Schuler, “When she mentioned the same goal a few times, I knew I wanted to give her the opportunity to experience the work close up.  I chose Valley Veterinary Clinic because it is woman-owned and operated. That was important because I wanted Nicole to see women professionals in a career she has an interest in.”

When Nicole became a little squeamish observing a dog being spayed in the surgery room, Dr. Fox was quick to let her know that she too had gotten a little light headed observing her first animal surgery at her family vet’s when she was Nicole’s age. “And now look what I’m doing!” she said as she expertly stitched the dog back up.

Ana Rodriguez, who found an interest in veterinary medicine through the Regional Occupational Program at Corning High School, explained the variety of ways someone can enter the field without becoming a veterinarian. Rodriguez, a veterinary technician, has a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in Animal Science.  She loves her job working with animals and appreciates the more regular hours she gets to keep as a vet tech. This gives her more time to spend with her own animals, cattle in Paskenta.

The Tehama County Mentoring program is administered by the Tehama County Department of Education.  According to Amy Schutter, Director of Student Support Services, mentoring can help fill gaps in the educational system by engaging the community.  “In times of decreased funding and opportunities for ROP and career exploration programs in schools, the Tehama County Mentoring Program is providing vocational mentoring and encouraging higher education. In the long run, this will help alleviate poverty and build a better workforce for our community.”

While Nicole ponders the opportunities in veterinary medicine available in her future, she’s pretty sure of a few things in her present. “I’m an animal whisperer, I guess,” she says. “That’s what my dad calls me.”

There’s that, and the support of a caring mentor.

This story appeared in the Red Bluff Daily News on Wednesday April 27, 2011 and can be found here.

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