High school students will have the opportunity to get their first taste of veterinary medicine this summer at WesternU’s new Summer Enrichment Camp.

The virtual camp is set to run June 14-18, exposing students to labs and lectures designed to stimulate interest in vet med at an early age. WesternU faculty and students will serve as teachers and mentors for the young learners.

Another goal of the program is to spark interest in veterinary medicine among underrepresented student populations. By lighting that fuse early, organizers hope it will lead to increased diversity in applications to veterinary programs and, ultimately, more doctors in the field.

“We want to foster interest, engage their minds, and create a pathway to veterinary school,” said Tim McPheron, director of development for the college. “And not only to them, but also to their parents, who don’t have the knowledge or experience to navigate the cost and financial aid available to attend both college and post-graduate college. We want to help them find a way to follow their dreams.”

Planned lectures and labs could run the gamut from animal nutrition and anatomy to zoo animals and zoonoses.

Not all camp participants will become veterinarians, McPheron noted, but the summer camp could bolster interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields overall—all areas where Black and Latinx students are historically underrepresented. The camp has a number of secondary goals, such as building character, strengthening intellectual curiosity, promoting social responsibility, and developing leadership skills.

WesternU’s program will be open to all high school students, but the organizers are specifically marketing it to underserved student groups. A small fee is envisioned, with scholarship funds available for those students who cannot afford the fee.

Other universities have had success with summer camps for high school students. WesternU looked at programs at Michigan State and Tufts in particular, according to  Stephanie Butler, events manager for the college.

Although this year’s initial camp will be virtual, Ms. Butler said, future camps are envisioned as in-person experiences. They may also span beyond a single week and could involve more than one high school student cohort, and may one day include camps for younger students.

WesternU’s first Summer Enrichment Camp has already received financial support from Zoetis, which will help defray the costs for campers and allow for honoraria for faculty and stipends for CVM students taking part on the program.

For more information, contact Ms. Butler at sbutler@westernu.edu.