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A spirit that is not afraid

Vet Set Go expands camp opportunities for future veterinarians

Students participate in activities at Vet Set Go's summer camp.
Students participate in activities at Vet Set Go's summer camp.

Vet Set Go–the first web-based community dedicated to providing information on how to become a veterinarian to teens and tweens–is offering 45 middle school students an opportunity to attend Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine Junior Vet Camp this summer for free. 

Winners of VSG’s “Become a Veterinarian Camp Contest” will receive a scholarship to attend Auburn’s Junior Vet Camp from June 18-23, a prize package that is valued at $1,200 and includes tuition, materials and room and board at the camp. 

Chris Carpenter, veterinarian and founder of VSG, started the group because of his experience growing up and hoping to become a veterinarian.  

“I’m no different from the future veterinarians of today. I made my decision to become a veterinarian at 11 years old. I went out to find experience and it was really hard because I was so young when I wanted to volunteer at a shelter when I wanted to volunteer at a vet clinic, and it was very difficult to find any opportunities,” Carpenter said. “And it’s no different for today’s future vets. Most aspiring veterinarians make their decision to become a vet between 9 and 13 years of age, and they encounter barriers because of their age. Vet Set Go was set up to help them get around those barriers and discover ways to get out there and volunteer with veterinarians, volunteer at shelters and allow them to explore their dreams.”

VSG has been a widely used resource for future vets since its inception in 2006. They have given away over 25,000 books to curious students and their website has over 100,000 user visits each year. However, Carpenter created the “Become a Veterinarian Camp Contes" so that he could help provide students with real-life opportunities to work with vets. 

Since the contest began in 2017, VSG has sent 20 winners to camp at Auburn each year. However, VCA Animal Hospitals has sponsored VSG so that they are able to expand their contest and send 45 kids to camp this summer free of cost. Auburn University has also been very helpful in making this contest a possibility, according to Carpenter.

“The innovative thing that they’ve done is this partnership. They’ve basically created a whole other week of camp just so we could do this scholarship class for students,” Carpenter said. 

This contest is open to all rising sixth-to-eighth-grade students. Students can apply on VSG’s website by writing a short essay of 300 words or less addressing one of these three topics: why they want to be a veterinarian, why they love animals or what they have done to get animal experience or learn more about science. The deadline to apply for this contest is Friday, March 31. 

Campers who attend Auburn’s Junior Vet Camp stay in university dorms and work directly with College of Veterinary Medicine students and professors. 

“They’re going and gloving for surgery. They are doing physical exams on large animals. It’s just a really complete experience,” Carpenter said. “Every day is different, but it’s always a mix of classroom, lab or hands-on animal experience. One morning they could be doing physical exams on dogs and learning how to do a physical that might be done in the exam room at a clinic. They could go to the parasitology lab where they go look under the microscope and look at parasites. They could go to the surgery suite and learn how to tie surgical knots, learn how to suture and learn how to do a staple gun. They’ll be doing things I didn’t do until I was a junior in vet school.”

The camp is starting to see some of its first scholarship recipients graduate from high school. Carpenter said that many of these students are still planning to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine, though he hasn’t had any students who have been accepted to vet school yet. Regardless of what students end up doing, Carpenter emphasizes that this camp exposes students to the world of science. 

“No one loses out on this. Lots of our campers are females, and even if they don’t decide to become veterinarians, they start realizing that science is a great option for them. And, quite honestly, this is true for any camper. They realize they could go into another area of science, like marine biology," Carpenter said. "This camp really opens the doors and lets them see all of the opportunities there are in animal health and all the opportunities there might be if they keep pursuing an education with a scientific background.”

Davis Brasfield | News Writer

Davis Brasfield, senior in psychology, is a news writer at The Auburn Plainsman.

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