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PEER Fellows Spread STEM Inspiration Throughout San Antonio, Brazos Valley

Posted July 24, 2017

PEER summer veterinary student fellows Lynanne Graf and Jessica Haynes shared their passion for STEM with youth groups of all ages, minority statuses, and would-be first-generation college students, while honing their own communication skills and furthering their educational experiences in veterinary medicine, during a recent trip to San Antonio.


Jessica Haynes presents to TAMU San Antonio to high schoolers.

At the San Antonio Humane Society, the PEER fellows talked to 33 children ages 9-11 at Camp Humane, which offers a unique learning experience about the humane treatment and care of domestic and wild animals.

There, PEER fellows presented “Animal Heroes,” highlighting the many specific jobs animals can have and instructing students on reading the body language of dogs and cats and how to respond appropriately. At the end of the presentation, activity packets on safe behaviors toward animals and various animal-care terminology were given to the campers.

“The campers continued to ask questions about veterinarians and vet school after the presentation,” Graf said. “They were excited and motivated to pursue a career with animals and asked advice on how to accomplish their goals.”

During the TAMU San Antonio PREP course, PEER fellows exposed 88 middle and high school students to traditional veterinary medicine, as well as all of the opportunities a veterinary school education offers, from animal training to working in a research lab. The PREP course is designed to help better prepare and motivate youth who would be first-generation college students for success in advanced studies.

“Several students said that this was their favorite presentation compared to others they had received in the last four weeks of the PREP course,” Haynes said. “Very positive feedback was received when student stayed late to discuss information in their ‘College Knowledge’ and ‘Science and You’ PEER pamphlets.”

The PEER fellows were delighted to have made an impact and, hopefully, convinced and encouraged the students to continue being interested in STEM careers, including veterinary medicine.

While visiting San Antonio, Graf and Haynes got some enrichment on their own, receiving a behind-the-scenes tour of Sea World and the San Antonio Zoo, where they were treated “very hospitably” and had their eyes opened during their first exposure to marine and zoo medicine, including seeing dolphins, sea lions, snakes, and hooded cranes.

During a necropsy of a Habu, a venomous pit viper endemic to Japan, the PEER fellows received an educational presentation on snake anatomy and discospondylitis.

PEERSeaWorld Graf and Haynes also dived into the research side of veterinary medicine by visiting the Southwest National Primate Research Center, located at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute.

Blake Harrington, one of the baboon caretakers, showed off the facilities and talked about some of the behavior and biological research that is done, the breeding of certain species, and primate diseases that cause concern. The students learned about Herpes B virus during this visit and the actions in place to prevent its spread to humans.

“Seeing how the use animals as a sentinel species for human medicine was enlightening,” Graf said.

Finally, PEER visited several veterinary clinics in the area and talked about PEER’s resources online, hoping to motivate staffs to utilize the many PEER educational resources available.

“The veterinarians and their staff were delighted to discover the helpful resources and took the time out of their busy day to learn about PEER,” Haynes said.

Other presentations recently given by the PEER fellows include at Bryan’s Kemp-Carver Elementary School, where Haynes, Graf, and graduate student Anna Blick discussed the sea turtle anatomy and life cycle with 16 fourth and fifth grade girls attending a Girlstart Camp; as part of the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History’s “Wild About Nature Week,” during which the three shared their knowledge during two days of educational activities on “Caring about Wildlife”—showing 28 students ages 4 to 12 how to identify orphaned wildlife vs. healthy wildlife that should be left alone—and “Blending with Nature”—examining how camouflaging plays a major role in our ecosystem; and with campers at Summer Science Safari, during which the PEER fellows detailed veterinary medicine and how veterinarians use the scientific method in every day practice.

Those interested in working for PEER or learning more about PEER’s educational resources can visit or email Dr. Larry Johnson at


Lynanne Graf and Jessica Haynes contributed to this article.

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