Senior class students in the Environmental Studies Academy at Washington Park have been spending about two hours once a week learning large animal care with Kim Rassi, owner of Vintage Alpacas located in Brooklyn Heights.
Kim Rassi explained that during the past six weeks the students have participated in many aspects of caring for the alpacas including hoof trimming, giving vaccination injections to the animals, haltering and general cleaning and maintenance.
“The students sacrifice their lunch hour to be here”, explained Bob Tuma. Tuma is one of the Washington Park teachers who helped fashion a nine-week internship that includes field-related work and community service. “These students are very interested in learning about all kinds of animals and this is a first-time opportunity to get up close and personal with large animals,” Tuma said.
When asked what senior student Sevon Blair wants to do after high school he explained, “I am thinking I would like to be a veterinary technician – it’s my first choice” and has applied at Kent State for that program. Currently employed part-time as an intern in maintenance for the Cleveland Board of Education, Blair indicated he is also interested in the construction industry.
Another student, Kyra Hughley indicated that she enjoyed being outside and working with the animals. “Clipping their (the alpacas) nails was very challenging”, Hughley said.
Students discovered today that a female alpaca will spit at the male alpaca if she is pregnant. Rassi asked student Ramona Kindell to record each female alpacas’ reaction to the male alpaca. “Keeping good records of each animal is important”, Rassi indicated. Several breeds of chickens are also at the farm. Student Precious Primm indicated that her favorite farm animal is a hen named Big Chick. Tuma joked, “the only chicken Precious knew before this was KFC”. Primm replied “that’s not true!”
Tuma remarked ” our school principal, Mrs. McKinnie, strongly supports this program and I know the students benefit from it with practical hands-on experiences they wouldn’t otherwise have”.