Highlands students early to join successful new Forbes vo-tech veterinary program

Highlands student Rachel Kosakowski feels lucky enough to get a spot on the Forbes Road Career and Technology Center’s veterinary program.

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

She is one of a crowd of students who have rushed to enroll for the still young course, which is already one of the most popular in its second year on the Monroeville campus.

“There’s a long waiting list for that,” said Forbes Administrative Director Edward McMullen.

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

“For a long time, cosmetics were top notch,” says Beale.

Forbes was founded in 1959 and has high school students in Highlands, Allegheny Valley, Plum and Riverview, including the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh.

Melanie Longo, lecturer on the Veterinary Sciences program, said the course was long overdue in a Vo-Tech setting.

“I can’t take any more students into my class,” she said.

Their three-year program prepares students for entry into the careers after graduation.

“I sponsor continuing education, but not everyone is made for college,” Longo said. “That gives you the opportunity to see if you want to enter the field.”

Students in Longo’s class learn the basics of animal health and wellbeing, including restraint, bathing, and medical recording. The third year of study offers the chance for a dual study program.

Earlier this semester, students tested their new skills on stuffed animals but have moved on to using live dogs, including Longo’s Boston Terrier, Goose, who attracts attention a few times a week.

On October 6th, students practiced restraint on JJ, a golden retriever and well-behaved “patient” owned by Stephanie Nejes School’s Special Group Advisor.

Reticent skills would be used during routine exams or during surgical preparation, Longo said.

“Students who complete the program can successfully enter the world of work as a veterinary assistant or kennel assistant,” she said.

McMullen said the veterinary sciences intake was based on student interest and employment trends.

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

“We have one instructor and we could easily have two,” said McMullen. “We’re seeing positive trends in other schools as the program grows in popularity across Allegheny County.”

The Parkway West Career and Tech Center in Oakdale already has three instructors and the AW Beattie Career Center in McCandless has two.

Forbes enrollments are rising across the board, McMullen said. Around 775 students take part every day.

“I think it’s a testament to the practical component of the class,” he said. “The children missed that last year.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Tawnya at 724-226-7726, tpanizzi@triblive.com, or on Twitter.