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Aspiring agribusiness students get college prep and real world experience

Students hold a sedated buffalo and check its temperature (AAEC).

The Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center High School (AAEC) dismisses the traditional high school methodology. Instead of the usual lecture classes, AAEC students take college-level courses in a field of study they’re interested in.

“We’re known for our concurrent college courses that are offered while students are in high school. So the objective is, students actually take college on a Maricopa Community College campus and get transferable credits to a four-year university,” said Brody McGuire, the agricultural education instructor and FFA advisor at the AAEC Estrella Mountain campus.

He says many of their students end up graduating with an associates degree or two. The school’s programs are designed to prepare college-bound kids for the more rigorous academic experience found at a university.

Also, like college, AAEC students can choose an academic pathway similar to a university major to focus on.

“Our vet science program is one that we’re very well known for as well as our agriscience program,” McGuire said. “But we have aerospace engineering, we have science club, we have medical students.”

Perhaps one of the most unique features of AAEC is are the study abroad opportunities. Nikia Gordon is a senior in the veterinary science program. This past summer she got to spend 11 days practicing her vet skills at the Amakhala Game Reserve outside of Cape Town South Africa.

“It’s just beautiful there,” Gordon said. “You’re actually in the African wilderness…you got warthogs running around and just roaming free.”

She said seeing the wild landscape was 10 times better than any postcard. However, she was there to work. The first task was learning what all the animals were.

“The hartebeest and the cape buffalo, and you just see so many of them and they’re just so gorgeous,” Gordon enthused.

The animals on the reserve are given routine checkups to make sure populations are healthy. Gordon got to experience up close what it was like to handle these wild animals.

“Most memorable and scary experience was being in there with a cape buffalo and just holding its head up by its horns,” Gordon said. “It’s sedated, not all the way knocked out. So, we’re holding it and its breathing, we’re checking its temperature. Things can change in a moment’s notice, you have to be aware and on your toes.”

The experience solidified Gordon’s desire to become a vet. She says that she’s looking at either going first into animal science or possibly becoming an army vet. Either way, she’s determined to become a veterinarian.

AAEC is not for everybody. Gordon did point out that the courses are rigorous and the teachers have high expectations. You have to be dedicated. The experience, however, has been ideal for her.

“When you’re looking back, they’re preparing you for life and all the opportunities they give is just amazing,” she said.

You can learn more about AAEC and how to enroll at their website.

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