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home : features : schools & education December 17, 2014

3/4/2014 7:53:00 AM
Into Africa:
Students prepare for trip of a lifetime
From left, Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center students Nathan Bottonfield, Emma Archambeau, Peyton Cass and Colee Pehl pose for a photo shoot celebrating their upcoming trip to Africa.
Photo courtesy Patrick Whitehurst/The Daily Courier
From left, Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center students Nathan Bottonfield, Emma Archambeau, Peyton Cass and Colee Pehl pose for a photo shoot celebrating their upcoming trip to Africa.
Photo courtesy Patrick Whitehurst/The Daily Courier

Patrick Whitehurst
Special to the Tribune

Four students from the Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center (AAEC) will soon depart for the trip of a lifetime.

Three juniors and a sophomore from the Prescott Valley charter school will be leaving for a veterinary science trip to the very tip of South Africa, where they'll visit an orphanage, study marine life in the sea, and spend time among rhinos, lions, elephants and more. The students are currently raising money to help pay for their trip to Port Elizabeth and to the Ulovane Conservation in particular.

Juniors Peyton Cass, Colee Pehl, Nathan Bottonfield and Sophomore Emma Archambeau will leave for Africa May 23 and study there for about a week with other AAEC students from the district campuses located in the Phoenix area.

The four are currently raising the $5,500 they will each need to take part in the trip. Tax credit donations and fundraisers are helping make the trip possible.

"We've been going to Sundogs games to hand out forms, talk about our trip and get donations," Pehl said.

"We're going to be raffling off some items, like a hockey stick from the Sundogs that they all signed, or a dental cleaning. Tickets are $10 each or three for $25," Archambeau said.

The four students will also make the trip with professional veterinarians from Arizona.

"The veterinarians go over there because they need continuation hours for their degree and this trip uses that as well. They're not only educating our kids, but they're learning and their practicing on these exotic animals. They're chaperones, mentors, coaches, but also colleagues with these kids," said AAEC principal Patrick Wellert.

"I'm most looking forward to going to the orphanage and hanging out with a bunch of little kids," Cass said.

Pehl, meanwhile, said she's excited about handling lions during the trip.

"I grew up around a taxidermist, so I always got to see stuffed lions, but I never got to play with a real lion, and we might get to do veterinary work on a real lion," she said.

Archambeau said she's looking forward to being out at sea due to her love of marine biology.

"That's what I want to do when I finish high school, so I'm excited for the chance to look at all the marine life," she said.

"I'm looking forward to working on the rhinos. We're going to be up in a helicopter and practice tranquilizing, not with an actual tranquilizer gun, but from the helicopter with a paint gun on a truck or something," Bottonfield said.

To be eligible for the annual school trip, students at the center must be enrolled in the veterinary sciences program, Wellert said. Students also had to write and submit an essay for review.

"We have a four-year veterinary science program that we offer here," he said. "We have a veterinarian that works for our school district here in the area. That veterinarian is the one who puts the whole trip together for us."

To purchase raffle tickets, call the school at 928-775-3200. The drawing will be held Friday, March 28. Winners of the raffle do not need to be present at the time of the drawing to win.

Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center is located at 7500 East Civic Circle in Prescott Valley.

"The way our program is set up is that, as soon as your freshman year, a student will start taking college classes, that's depending on if their grades are good, they're comfortable and their parent's comfort level. Students need at least five semesters of college classes to graduate from our school. That's the minimum," Wellert said.

Often, however, students will graduate high school with an associate degree in their chosen field, Wellert said.

"At the end of your freshman year, you'll meet with a Yavapai College advisor and we'll start designing your own individual college plan," he said.

The charter is open to all students. There are approximately 180 enrolled students at the school, though that number is expected to grow to more than 200 next year.

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