After passing a welding room, a miniature automotive shop, a small salon and a graphic design lab, a veterinary room lies at the end of a sprawling hall. Every afternoon at NewTech Skill Center, the 18 students of Michelle Burdick’s veterinary assistant program get the chance to care for a number of furry patients including two Pomeranians, a snake, rodents and rabbits.
One of these students is Kira Wycoff, who dons a brightly patterned set of nurse-style scrubs. She may seem shy at first to other humans, but Wycoff communicates lovingly with the animals.
“She definitely has a lot of passion for the field, she takes a lot of initiative, she asks questions and gets involved,” Burdick said, who describes Wycoff as a dependable and reliable team player.
“It’s really relaxing, and it does calm my nerves and anxiety,” Wycoff said about interacting with animals. “Animals are kind of like a safe place, I guess. They’re my ‘zen zone.’ ”
However, Wycoff’s life wasn’t always about learning vet operations.
When the 18-year-old first attended high school at Rogers High, it didn’t go well. She describes a life of intense anxiety and chronic migraines that made her frequently skip school. Her attendance dipped drastically, and her grades did, too. Wycoff said she never failed any classes, but the lack of contentedness with her learning was clear.
Before things got better, they got worse. Wycoff turned to illicit drugs such as marijuana and eventually methamphetamine to remedy the pain.
“I was not a good kid, to begin with,” Wycoff said. “I was very disobedient, and I was kind of a delinquent. I would sneak out a lot at night, and I was also into drugs.”
She needed to stop the bad habits before they got the best of her, and she started to change in 2013, the end of her freshman year at Rogers, to alter the dark path in exchange for a brighter one. Wycoff heard about a nearby alternative school that was receptive to students with anxiety and mental health issues, and by April 2014 she was in a seat at Map High School.
Once at Map, sophomore Wycoff opened up about drug abuse, and both the school and her fiancé, Dakota, helped her through a drug rehabilitation program.
“I really like the environment there,” Wycoff said about the school, which has students meet weekly with counselors and provides teachers with psychology training. “It’s very friendly and there’s not many kids. The way they teach is a lot different from Rogers: They really want to help each student individually. There’s not as much anxiety at Map.”
Celena Breach, one of Wycoff’s teachers at Map, testifies to Wycoff’s positive transformation.
“Kira is a very driven student. She works really hard to grasp an understanding of what is happening in the class and is applying it to the real world.”
The progress continued in other aspects of her life: She began to become less introverted and she said her self-esteem rose, propelling her college motivations.
Wycoff describes herself as “compassionate, honest and trustworthy.” She likes to go to the movies with friends, watch anime on Netflix and play video games such as “Minecraft” and “Little Big World.” She plans on ending her two-year engagement by getting married this summer, date to be determined.
And going forward, her straight A’s at Map School and the New Tech Skills Center might catapult her into a life of veterinary services.
“It is my understanding that she does want to continue on in this field,” said Burdick, who has taught the veterinary program for 16 years. “Whether she chooses to be a veterinary technician, which are the nurses in our field, or whether she continues on to be a veterinarian … she’s going to be an asset to the field.”
This would be in line with Wycoff’s ultimate goal of becoming a veterinarian technician who owns a veterinary clinic and animal shelter. She said she has major support for her goals, especially from Map, her husband-to-be, and father Mike Wycoff.
Before graduating in June, Wycoff will test to receive a veterinary assistant’s certification from NewTech, and possibly attend Yakima Community College’s veterinary program.
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