WESTFORD — The partnership between Nashoba Valley Technical High School and Angell Animal Medical Center is really for the birds. And the dogs and the cats — just about any pet, for that matter.
In 2015, Nashoba Tech added Veterinary Assisting to its technical offerings because one of the industries in dire need of employees is veterinary science. Shortly after, Angell Animal Medical Center opened its Angell at Nashoba animal clinic inside the school, where juniors and seniors in the Veterinary Assisting program can gain valuable hands-on experience.
Now, the partnership is starting to pay dividends, as four Nashoba Tech graduates are working for Angell — two at the in-school clinic, and two at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Woburn.
“There is an incredible shortage,” said Dr. Laurence Sawyer, DVM, the medical director for Angell at Nashoba. “Angell can’t operate at full capacity. They have the doctors, and they certainly have the demand.”
Between the doctors and the demand, however, is the support staff, and that’s what is sorely lacking.
That’s where Nashoba Tech’s Veterinary Assisting program comes in.
Ann Marie Greenleaf, chief of staff at Angell Animal Medical Center, said she’s happy to see students graduating, earning their certificates as veterinary technicians, and entering the workforce.
“The Nashoba Valley Tech students who have graduated and gone on to work for the Angell network are doing very well,” Greenleaf said. “They bring a level of knowledge that allows them to integrate well with our existing teams. Anything they do not know, they will learn on the job as they are taught by more experienced technicians.”
An enormous part of the equation is the fact that Angell will pay for enrollment in an online program through which qualifying students can pursue further education in the veterinary sciences once they graduate from high school.
Greenleaf said students who have worked for Angell for six months can submit an essay on how they would use their degree, and if the essay is satisfactory, they can enroll in the Penn Foster program, which is 100 percent funded by Angell.
“They can work and earn money while they pursue their degree,” Greenleaf said.
In 3-4 years, students can earn their Associate’s degree and take the test to become a certified veterinarian technician, or CVT, and receive a $5,000 bonus. They can then, if they choose, go on to earn their Bachelor’s degree, again paid for by Angell.
It all begins, though, at Nashoba Tech.
“Having the clinic onsite has given students real-world experience in dealing with the public and learning how a veterinary clinic functions,” said Kate Hawkins, one of the Veterinary Assisting instructors at Nashoba Tech.
Eryn Tormey, a 2019 graduate of Nashoba Tech from Shirley, is working at Angell at Nashoba along with fellow 2019 alum Carley Robinson of Lowell. Meanwhile, 2022 graduates Angelina Herbst of Ayer and Roslynn Rhodes of Pepperell, are working at Angell Animal Medical Center while completing the Penn Foster program.
Tormey earned her degree in Veterinary Tech at New England Institute of Technology before the Penn Foster program was offered. While at Nashoba Tech, she worked in the Angell at Nashoba clinic. Now she’s back working full time.
“They know me, and I’m happy and comfortable with the people who work here,” Tormey said. “I’ve learned a lot from them, and they’ve brought me where I am today. It’s like a big family here. They’re very encouraging and very motivating. They push me to be more than what I think I can be.”
Tormey is exposed to all aspects of working in an animal clinic, including reception, treatment, surgery and anesthesia.
“Surgery is one of my favorite days,” she said, adding that now she’s helping today’s upperclassmen at Nashoba Tech get to where she is.
“Having the clinic at Nashoba allows students to really explore what it is like to work in a general practice,” Greenleaf said.
Nashoba Tech Superintendent Dr. Denise Pigeon said the working relationship between the school and the clinic is exactly what was envisioned in 2015.
“We are so grateful to have this partnership with Angell and to give students the chance to work together with the staff at the clinic,” Pigeon said. “It’s a tremendous benefit for our students.”