Iowa summer camp fires student’s passion for animal science

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Brenna Frawley in Iowa this summer, learning how to be a veterinarian. Photo courtesy Brenna Frawley.
Brenna Frawley in Iowa this summer, learning how to be a veterinarian. Photo courtesy Brenna Frawley.

A Virginia Beach high school student drew blood from chickens in Iowa this summer. Now she’s sure she wants to be a veterinarian.

Brenna Frawley, who starts her senior year at Green Run High School on Tuesday, was one of 16 students from across the country selected to participate in a two-week camp sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, called the AgDiscovery Program. When she heard about the camp last fall from a school librarian, she thought it sounded like a chance to see the Midwest, spend time on a farm and learn more about what veterinarians do. Having seen their work up close, she’s more set than ever on going into the field.

“It excited me more,” she said. “It was just a really good program.”

Frawley has lived in the city since she was about three or four. She has a beagle mix, Dash, and a pit bull mix, Bentley. She volunteers at the Virginia Beach Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, where she cleans cages and walks and feeds dogs.

“Just really anything they need,” she said.

She decided she wanted to be a vet when she was 13, after the death of another pit bull mix, Shaela. That loss lit the spark, according to Frawley.

“I have a deep love for animals,” she said. “I thought it would be the correct fit for me.”

The USDA’s summer camp cemented her sense of certainty. She stayed in a dorm on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, worked at an animal shelter, visited farms and watched veterinarians performing spay and neuter procedures.

Before Frawley can go to veterinary school, though, she must go to college. She is considering schools with undergraduate animal-science programs, such as North Carolina State University in Raleigh and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

And she thinks other teenagers who might want to become veterinarians should go to the USDA camp, too, so they can see what the actual work is like.

“Thinking about it now, I miss all the activities we did there,” she said.

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Joan Quigley is a former Miami Herald business reporter, a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and an attorney. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, TIME.com, nationalgeographic.com and Talking Points Memo. Her recent book, Just Another Southern Town: Mary Church Terrell and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Nation’s Capital, was shortlisted for the 2017 Mark Lynton History Prize. Her first book, The Day the Earth Caved In: An American Mining Tragedy, won the 2005 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award.