High School Students Exposed to All Aspects of Veterinary Science During Exploration Experience

To explore potential careers in the dairy industry and gain hands-on experience with various aspects of veterinary science, a group of 32 high school students visited the Penn State Dairy Barns and Central Milk Testing Laboratory in State College, Pennsylvania in October 2022 for the Dairy Leaders of Tomorrow Exploration Experience. Hosted by Dairy Leaders of Tomorrow, Penn State University and Penn State Extension, the event was designed to give high school juniors and seniors an immersive, day-long experience where they could learn about the proper health for dairy cattle and dissect various organs.

“I brought students to this Exploration Experience event to get hands-on experience working with veterinarians in the industry. They also received career information that we talk about in class, but they don’t always get to see those people in action and what they do on a day-to-day basis,” said Jennifer Balmer, an agriculture teacher from Northern Lebanon High School.

Through multiple hands-on labs led by Penn State instructors, the students learned about calving management techniques and the birthing process, how to evaluate sick animals and perform physical exams, and how to help prevent lameness with hoof trimming. They also dissected hearts and learned about parasitology.

“I came to the Exploration Experience because I have a passion for the dairy industry and animal science. I’d like to open a housing facility on my farm after I graduate college to house dairy cattle and possibly become an embryologist as well. All of the things I’ve learned today are very beneficial for my college career and my future career,” said Adria Russell, a senior at Juniata Valley High School.

Whether students decide to pursue a veterinary science career in the dairy industry, or narrow their focus to a different type of animal science profession, these educational experiences are helping students explore the wide range of opportunities in front of them.

“My passion for agriculture started when I was around four years old. I grew up and was raised on my grandparents’ fourth-generation dairy farm. I think this is such a great program for exploring careers and finding different ways to include your passion into a job or whatever you’re going to do in the future,” added Mackenzie Coffman, senior at Juniata Valley High School.

A special thank you to Dr. Ernest Hovingh, Dr. Hayley Springer, Dr. Adrian Barragan, Marcela Martinez, Esteban Jimenez, and Pedram Zarei from the Penn State Extension Vet Science team for leading these labs and giving students such a positive experience.

The next Exploration Experience is being planned for the spring of 2023. Click here to learn more.

The Dairy Leaders of Tomorrow Exploration Experiences began in 2017 and offer high school students the opportunity to utilize formal education skills in hands-on, experimental learning experiences. These experiences give students the opportunity to apply skills they learned in the classroom in real-world settings, engage in STEM learning through agricultural-focused areas, explore potential career opportunities, and cultivate a network of industry professionals. 

Dairy Leaders of Tomorrow is a program managed by the Dairy Excellence Foundation and designed specifically to prepare high school students to work in the dairy industry. A three-part model program, Dairy Leaders of Tomorrow offers classroom instruction, on-farm experiences, and scholarship opportunities. Sign up for the Dairy Leaders of Tomorrow program today.