Magnet high school students start early careers in veterinary science

"This is Blackjack, he’s one of many bunnies here," smiles 14-year-old Jordyn Hillhouse.  But she and her classmates have lots of animals to keep track of.

"I’ve worked with dogs, cats, horses, pigs, goats," says 16-year-old Avianna Danise.

They’re all in the new veterinary science building at Richard O. Jacobson Technical High School in Seminole.

"When I originally started this program, I just wanted to be a vet tech, but I love this program so much. I want to go for a full veterinarian," says Hillhouse.

Students spend 90 minutes a day on veterinary studies along with their high school curriculum. At end of the 12th grade, along with a high school diploma they earn a professional certificate.

Richard O. Jacobson Technical High School veterinary science building in Seminole

"If you’re planning to go to college you’re going to go in and work part-time and work your way through college at a decent wage," says Marti Giancola, principal at Jacobson. "Or it could be your career for the rest of your life."

The ribbon-cutting for the new $4.6 million veterinary sciences building comes as Jacobson Technical High School is named the best new magnet school in the nation.

Veterinary science is just one of many technical specialties that students can choose. Jacobson became a high school just three years ago. Some believe the technical and academic model will spread.

"I would like to see more schools like this around the district and around the nation," says Giancola. "Because what I’ve found is the students are so engaged that they want to come to school."

Even after the original barn was blown down by Hurricane Irma, funding from the Jacobson and Pinellas Education Foundations built it back better than ever.

"I was so happy to get in, my life would be so different without it," says Hillhouse. 

Blackjack the rabbit and the other animals are helping students turn their passion for animals into a bright future.

Jacobson Technical High School is a magnet school, so students can apply from anywhere in Pinellas County.