Hundreds of high school and middle school students came to Agricultural Field Day at Pierce College Wednesday to check out the college’s agricultural facilities.
A gaggle of school buses brought 478 students from three high schools and four middle schools, many of them wearing jackets bearing the emblem of the Future Farmers of America organization, to learn about opportunities offered by Pierce’s agricultural program.
Pierce students and teachers from other schools at booths throughout the farm taught the middle school and high school students about subjects like global informational satellite technology and veterinary practices.
Pierce students Rashi Gupta, 20, and Megan Smith, 24, represented the Registered Veterinary Technician’s club at the event.
“It’s a really opportunity for [the students],” Smith said. “There’s not a lot of opportunities out there if this is the kind of work you want to do.”
With a set of veterinary tools in front of her, Gupta gave the students a rundown of some common procedures.
“We’re explaining to all these kids about all the different tools in the veterinary setting, like bandaging, all the sterilization techniques and suture techniques,” Gupta said. “We’re basically giving them a recap of a whole hospital in less than 15 minutes.”
A Barred Plymouth Rock chicken, dubbed Orange 70, sat at a booth manned by Pierce student Gigi Leong.
“We’re unusual here at Pierce in that we actually have a farm,” said Leong, a pre-veterinary major. “We are very, very fortunate.”
Dr. Leland Shapiro, the chair of Pierce’s agriculture department, said that the program is very successful academically, thanks in part to the 17 cattle, 45 goats, 15 sheep, 33 chickens, 18 horses, three donkeys, one alpaca, and one pot-bellied pig that the farm is home to.
“We’re the only two-year degree program in veterinary medicine in the United States,” Shapiro said. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve had 186 students that have been accepted into one or more graduate schools of veterinary medicine.”
Shapiro has been teaching full-time at Pierce since 1976, and he said he’s seen positive results that only an agricultural environment like Pierce’s can bring.
“You go to UCLA, you know about things in a textbook,” Shapiro said. “[Pierce students] have that advantage of having hands-on experience with all the farm animals.”
Shapiro said Pierce’s agricultural program has gotten international attention because of it’s outstanding transfer rates.
”We have a the highest acceptance rate into graduate schools of any two-year school anywhere in the country.” Shapiro said. “About 85 percent of our students who apply get in.”
Pierce pre-veterinary students work on a variety of animals, like going to a friend of Shapiro’s to do veterinary work on one of his six elephants.
“Our students, when they leave Pierce, they handle everything from a mouse to an elephant,” Shapiro said.
Scott Glasser, a tutor at Woodland Hills Academy, one of the schools present at the event, appreciated what Pierce’s farm had to offer.
“I just think they should really keep this program going and not make any cuts towards it,” Glasser said.