Twelve high school students from Pine Bluff and Little Rock recently participated in the inaugural Anitrak Camp, a summer residential veterinary and animal science career enrichment program.

The Department of Agriculture at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) hosted the program.

Bottle-feeding baby goats, conducting water quality tests and dissecting quail were just some of the hands-on activities designed to create awareness among students about careers in the field.

“Many of the camp activities included things I never thought I would do,” said Tyrah Elerby, camp participant and senior at Pine Bluff High School. “For example, I never thought I would learn how to milk a goat. I got a lot of memories out of the camp and will miss everyone I met.”

Rikkiya Britten, a junior at Dollarway High School, said one of her favorite parts of the camp was the visit to a veterinary clinic.

“It was interesting to get a close look at the working environment of vets,” she said. “I also liked that almost every experience we had was hands-on. My favorite activity was collecting a blood sample from a goat. Some people learn by doing things themselves instead of only listening and seeing.”

Edem Ammamoo, a junior at Pine Bluff High School, said the camp opened his eyes to careers related to animal science.

“I learned that I could major in animal science and be ready for veterinary or medical school depending on the university, which would give me two possible career paths that I love,” he said. “I also love that you can earn two degrees from UAPB and UofA through the 3 + 1 Program in Poultry Science. That’s something I will strongly consider.”

During the program’s closing ceremony, each student received a certificate of participation and a $250 stipend.

Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the program is intended to increase minority student participation in the animal sciences through outreach, curriculum development and experiential learning. It addresses the need to inform students about the range of career possibilities in animal sciences before they enroll at universities and pick a major, Jayant Lohakare, UAPB associate professor of animal science, said.

“Many students – even those who are very interested in animals – may overlook the area of study when it would be a perfect fit for them,” he said. “This program was intended to show them just how many interesting and fulfilling work opportunities there are in the industry.”

Program curricula exposed students to livestock, poultry, crop and fish production. Participants learned the relevance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts through firsthand experience in water quality, soil, environmental, cell culture and biotechnology labs.

During the first week of camp, students traveled to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where they visited a poultry pathology lab and took part in a quail dissection exercise.

“The trip to the U of A highlighted the 3 + 1 Program in Poultry Science,” Lohakare said. “Established in 2013 between UAPB and UofA, the program allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree in agriculture-poultry science from UAPB and a concurrent bachelor’s degree in agricultural, food and life sciences-poultry science from UofA. The students also learned about careers in the poultry industry.”

Back at UAPB, they visited the campus goat barn and learned about animal management practices. Later in the week, they attended lectures on livestock reproduction and visited UAPB’s vegetable production research site and greenhouses, where they heard about sweet potato production. Excursions also included trips to the Little Rock Zoo and Raby Farms in Rison.

During the second week of the program, participants learned about soil and environmental pollutants, biotechnology, livestock production and food safety. Excursions included visits to a local veterinary clinic, fish hatchery and ponds and a cattle farm.

“Farm visits were assisted by local Extension agents, who taught students about animal production practices in the state,” Lohakare said. “Farm owners told students about their farm practices and the ins and outs of running a farm.”

The camp itinerary included a night at Heifer Ranch in rural Perryville, where participants got a taste of life in developing countries and participated in team-building exercises. In Little Rock, they visited the Clinton Presidential Center.

UAPB offers all of its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.

— Will Hehemann is a writer/editor at the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.