Exotic animals and their care in a zoo has been a lifelong dream for Kylee Knott of North Platte while Reiley Wieland of Kenesaw is specializing in equine health.
Both are non-traditional students completing their first year in the Veterinary Technology Systems (VTS) program at the University of Nebraska-Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA). The two women took different routes to enter the two-year school at Curtis.
“I was in Lincoln doing a pre-vet degree and had a moment of clarity, realizing that I didn’t want to do that anymore,” says Wieland, 22, “I wanted to specialize in horses, and NCTA is really the only vet tech program in this area of the country that has a large-animal emphasis, too.”
Knott’s epiphany was more circuitous. She left high school and later earned her GED while in Kearney, married, had two sons and gained two older step-sons, worked various jobs including as a certified nursing assistant, but kept searching for something that suited her dream.
“When I was hitting a roadblock in the employment field, not getting me good jobs, I looked into embalming as a mortician or I wanted to be a vet tech,” Knott says. “I want to help support my family.”
So, she commutes the 90-mile round trip to and from North Platte most days, unless she is serving her role in the facilities management rotation. Then, she stays on campus and has a taste of dorm life to be there for the 7 a.m. responsibility of feeding the 150-plus animals in the teaching program.
All VTS students share in the rotation which fits around a full day of classes, 15 days of duties, 15 days off, including weekend care. They feed animals from 7-8 a.m., check over the noon hour, and do evening chores from 4-6 p.m. And, they also play with the animals, ensuring social time and exercise.
“Every day we clean and feed (the animals), and make sure everybody is okay, and then we get up and do it again the next day,” says Wieland, who serves double-duty, too, as one of the six resident assistants in the campus dormitories.
As a National Guard medic based with a Lincoln unit, Wieland also “has a lot of human medicine under my belt.” For almost five years, she’s made monthly trips to Lincoln for Guard duty, and benefits from the monthly stipends and tuition assistance. She has one year left on her contract.
Her focus this summer is taking classes, studying, working on NCTA’s campus and editing the campus newsletter, “Aggie Up.” For fall semester, she looks forward to classes in Nursing II, equine diseases, and equine anesthesia. And, her horse, Felina, a 6-year-old Mustang from a federal horse adoption program, will be coming back from summer pasture at Kenesaw to private boarding near campus. NCTA’s program has proven to be just the ticket.