Becker Brings Veterinary Science to Girls Inc. of Worcester
In early August, Becker was host to Girls Inc. of Worcester, a nonprofit that has been giving young girls from the Worcester practical learning experiences for over 100 years. Girls Inc. works with more than 1,400 girls each year at their own site as well as on college and university campuses across central Massachusetts.
While Becker and Girls Inc. have collaborated in the past, this year was special. Around 30 girls in 8th and 9th grade came to the Leicester Campus to undertake a week of animal and veterinary science STEM activities within the Lenfest Animal Health Center. The week was organized by Rachel “Dr. K” Kupcinskas-Santic DVM, Medical Director of the Lenfest Animal Health Center, with the help of her aunt, a former Millbury High School chemistry teacher. Girls Inc. holds fond memories for Dr. K since she spent “many happy Saturdays there” when she was a child.
The girls learned the importance of medical records and some basics about animal and veterinary science before working on dogs. These canine companions were actually stuffed animals with semi-realistic health problems that Dr. K and her staff created to simulate many common ailments for animals. “I wanted to give them the experience, as much as I could, within the safety confines and what is applicable for their age, with an animal being sick with something that can be fixed medically and be educational and fun for the girls,” said Dr. K.
Girls Inc. has cohorts for grades 8-12 and wants their girls to be geared up for life in education and beyond. Externships and firsthand learning opportunities have given girls a leg up on their resume building and even turned into jobs for some girls. Each week during the summer, the groups travel to different campuses to cover STEM topics. In addition to their experiences at Becker, the Girls Inc. participants, Girls Inc. built rockets at WPI and studied biology at Worcester State. Through grants, each girl has a fully funded summer experience.
Two girls were especially enthusiastic about their time in the vet clinic. Both want to be veterinarians when they are older and know that college is necessary for such a career. When asked about their experience, one remarked that Becker taught her that caring for animals and veterinary science is a lot of work. Both girls agreed that it was still a lot of fun. When asked about the learning objectives of that week, Dr. K believes “I think it’s important on several levels—for community outreach, for encouraging girls to go into STEM careers, and for the general public to know what a veterinarian does.” Dr. K and Becker hope to hold more Girls Inc. programs in the future.