BELTON — Belton High School’s agricultural science program, part of the Career and Technical Education program, is thriving, with 748 students enrolled in courses ranging from floral design to vet tech.

“This is a program that’s dear to my heart,” said Ed Braeuer, Belton ISD’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

“I grew up on a farm and participated in (FFA), and it helped prepare me for life. It’s a great program, and we’re very proud of it.”

Instructors Wade Gartman, Tammy Gebert, Brad Hobbs and Laci Laster prepare students for careers ranging from working in a veterinarian’s office to farming and ranching, and serving as a park ranger, zookeeper or a variety of other agricultural pursuits.

The program offers several hands-on learning opportunities outside the classroom, and students can substitute floral design classes for art or band, Gebhert said.

Sidney Holman, a junior, said there are many benefits to learning floral design.

“I made a mum for my little sister,” she said, and there’s also an opportunity to make extra money around homecoming. You have to figure out the wholesale cost. It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun.”

Sidney also is a member of FFA, which she said “is a good organization that teaches responsibility and helps with scholarships.”

Mariah Rivera, a senior, said the floral design classes allow students to focus on a variety of holiday themes, and to make and deliver custom arrangements.

Johnathan Templeton, a senior, is president of the Belton chapter of the FFA, which is involved in a variety of community science projects in addition to helping students learn about agriculture.

“I want to go into manufacturing,” he said. “I hope to attend Texas A&M and major in mechanical engineering. I’ve been in FFA all four years (of high school). It helps enable you to do what you want to do. I participated in public speaking (through FFA), and now I can speak to groups, and I was unable to do that before.

“What I want to do with the rest of my life is to be in ag. With the things I’ve learned, it’s going to happen.”

Marissa Monroy, a senior, is enrolled in the vet tech program and is in her second year of working at the Bell County Veterinary Hospital.

Her experiences are shared by many BHS students, teacher Brad Hobbs said.

“All the (veterinary) programs in the area have Belton students, some as many as four students a day,” he said. “Many hire the students while they’re in class.”

Monroy is also getting certified as a pharmacy tech and plans to major in computer science at Baylor University.

“I hope to work as a vet tech when I’m going to college,” she said. “A lot of people go to college to learn how to do this. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

Miranda Fuller, a senior, started working at the Bell County Veterinary Hospital in June.

“They liked my work ethic so well they wanted to hire me,” she said. “I’ve helped with surgeries, spaying and neutering and prolapses.

“It’s not just dogs and cats. We get some exotic animals, like camels, zebras, a kangaroo and lemurs.”

Fuller has enjoyed the class, she said.

“It’s a great experience. I’m getting so much in this class. It’s really fun.”

She plans to major in animal science at Tarleton State University. “I’ve been focused on becoming a vet for a long time,” Fuller said. “This is what I want to do with my life.”

Students are required to volunteer for 500 hours before they can take the Vet Tech I exam, and for another 500 hours to take the Vet Tech II exam.

Seven students are expected to take the exams before spring break, with several others on track to take the exams before the end of the school year, Hobbs said.

“Our goal is to help our students get a job.”

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