ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County public schools developed magnet programs aimed at increasing student achievement and giving them a chance to focus on interest, talents or career goals.
One of those programs is the Veterinary Animal Science and Services magnet program at Colonial High School, and one former student said it made her well-prepared to make decisions about her future.
"My time here allowed me to get the hands-on experiences that I needed to solidify my belief that I wanted to now go into large animals. I was able to get comfortable working with cattle. I also raised dairy goats,” Valeria Lantigua said.
Lantigua completed the program in 2017 and is now putting her knowledge to use in the real world at the University of Florida. Lantigua is currently working with the animal science department on a special study for dairy cattle.
"To keep the animals productive, we have to find methods to keep them cool and comfortable in the hot Florida heat, so what our lab focuses on are, like, the different environmental and nutritional aspects that affect dairy cattle production," she said.
Emily May, a 17-year-old senior at Colonial High School, said the experience of working with a steer is teaching her about the type of cattle raised for consumers.
"He has taught me a lot when it comes to larger animals … such as he's a ruminant, so he has four stomachs," May said. "I'm able to learn how to give him vaccinations, deworm him and prepare him to be able to be food for someone's plate."
Caela Paioff, one of the agricultural and animal sciences instructors at Colonial High, said it allows students to become more familiar with their chosen crafts before they leave.
"Our students leave the program and they find careers that are relevant to the things they learned in our class," Paioff said. "Over four years of education they become incredibly proactive and passionate about their futures."
In November, nearly 4,000 students applied for a magnet program throughout Orange County. The programs range in various subjects.
Paioff said the program came about from a daily need.
"Agriculture being the very backbone of America, it's a career that supplies the very basic necessities of everyday life. We do a lot of consumer-based agriculture, so we're teaching our students to be informed consumers," Paioff said.
The students work with a variety of animals, ranging from livestock to goats, ducks, turtles and snakes.
"Through this program, I'm able to safely say that I'm trained in this -- that I know what I'm doing," May said.