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Boiler Vet Camp Earns American Camp Association Accreditation

Friday, December 15, 2023

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Campers jump over the ceremonial tracks on Purdue's campus

After 15 years of Purdue University’s Boiler Vet Camp (BVC), the summer program has earned its bragging rights. A highly competitive camp registration process yields 100 campers from more than 800 teenage applicants. It was the first vet camp in the country to provide campers a weeklong in-residence experience. It cultivates future veterinarians — many of its participants go on to earn a DVM, several at Purdue.

Adding to the list of accolades, it’s now the first camp at the university to be accredited by the American Camp Association. The ACA is the only nationwide accrediting organization for all types of organized camps. Its rigorous accreditation standards focus on health, safety, and risk management and are used as benchmarks by government entities. Earning accreditation affirms a program’s commitment to the well-being of campers and staff.

“There are so many logistical and organizational elements to manage when planning a weeklong in-residence camp of this nature,” said Dr. Jim Weisman (PU DVM ’97), assistant dean for clinical education and a clinical associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine who serves as the director of BVC. “Earning the ACA accreditation provides confirmation that our procedures not only achieve the intended academic learning outcomes, but also ensure the safety of the young people entrusted to our care.”

The Impact of BVC

Dean Willie Reed charged Dr. Weisman with organizing BVC back in 2008. That first year, the program piloted one weeklong camp for junior campers who are rising 8th and 9th graders. Two years later, a second weeklong senior camp was added for students entering 10th, 11th, or 12th grade.

“Our goal from the beginning has always been to create a camp experience that is active and hands-on,” Dr. Weisman said. “Once we developed a curriculum, we then had to consider all the aspects of an in-residence camp, such as hosting young middle schoolers — or even high schoolers — who might be spending a week away from home for the first time.”

The junior camp serves as an introduction to various fields and career paths within veterinary medicine. In addition to on-campus sessions working with simulator models and learning about health and wellness for different species, the participants also hear from representatives from the Indiana State Board of Animal Health and go on field trips. An excursion to the Indianapolis Zoo covers zoo medicine. Another to Fair Oaks Farms in Northwest Indiana provides a glimpse into providing veterinary medical care for livestock such as cattle and swine.

During senior camp, participants focus more on small animal wellness. Through a partnership with area humane societies, each camper team is paired with a dog during the week. The students work with the dogs to prepare them for adoption, conducting wellness exams, learning about bloodwork testing for infectious diseases and observing a neutering surgery. Both camps also have a number of recreational activities built into the schedule such as touring campus sites and bowling at Union Rack and Roll in the Purdue Memorial Union.

“Offering both a junior camp and a senior camp allows us to serve more students,” Dr. Weisman said. “It’s also an opportunity for the older students to dive deeper into veterinary medicine and gain a better understanding of the profession and whether or not it might be the right career path for them.”

Both camps utilize first- and second-year Purdue DVM students who serve as camp counselors after being selected through an application process that’s competitive, too. Each year, the program receives somewhere between 50 and 60 applications for 20 to 25 counselor spots. When selecting counselors to mentor campers, the counselor selection committee looks for strong communicators with a positive attitude in good academic standing. Previous camp experience is a plus. Serving as a counselor enables DVM students to share their passion for veterinary medicine and further develop their leadership skills. Many campers stay in touch with their counselors, even years later. Over the past 15 years, Dr. Weisman has seen multiple BVC campers earn their DVM degrees at Purdue, too.

Campers come from all over the country to participate in BVC. Some receive scholarship assistance to help cover costs which enables the program to admit more students without the concern of financial impact. Junior camp runs $1,100 for the week and senior camp runs $1,600. But for camp participants, the experience is invaluable.

“I recently heard from a former camper who earned his degree three years ago from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine,” Dr. Weisman said. “He was a BVC camper about ten years ago and the experience had such an impact on him, he called me out of the blue to donate $1,600 to sponsor a senior camper next summer. It’s meaningful to hear from a camper who is now practicing in the profession and wants to make sure other kids have the same opportunity to participate in BVC.”

Seeking Accreditation

It was Amanda Pedroza, lead event planner for Purdue Conferences, part of the Administrative Operations organization at the university, who approached the college about seeking ACA accreditation for BVC. Pedroza has collaborated with Dr. Weisman for several years to help plan BVC. While Dr. Weisman oversees the academic, staffing, and programming aspects of the camp, Pedroza administers camp logistics such as budgeting, obtaining insurance, securing transportation services, and coordinating campus lodging and dining for campers and camp staff. When searching for a campus youth program to undergo the comprehensive two-year ACA accreditation process, Pedroza identified BVC as the ideal candidate.

“I’ve worked with Dr. Weisman and his team over the years as their event planner and together, we’ve created a flawless working relationship to obtain and manage a high level of success for BVC,” Pedroza said. “Dr. Weisman exhibits a great attention to detail in planning his programs and ensuring all parties involved are following Purdue’s youth protection procedures. I was confident that BVC would earn ACA accreditation in partnership with Purdue Conferences. I was happy to guide the process along the way.”

The accreditation process involved writing a 300-page handbook outlining all the procedures, forms and materials needed for the camp. ACA accreditation is administered through a peer-review process which includes a site visit to ensure camp operations adhere to both program quality and health and safety standards set by the ACA. Now that BVC has been accredited, Pedroza is eager to begin the process with other camps planned by Purdue Conferences.

“Our long-term goal is to have all Purdue youth camps accredited by ACA,” Pedroza said. “Earning this accreditation substantiates the university’s commitment to the health and safety of youth participants. Purdue is leading the way among peer institutions to elevate our youth programming — and BVC is spearheading that initiative.”

For Dr. Weisman, the ACA accreditation validates the efforts of everyone at the college involved in BVC who works together to provide quality youth programming and a safe environment for campers. In addition to the DVM student counselors, many faculty members and veterinary nurses also contribute to the success of the camps.

“The objective of BVC is to energize young people about a career in veterinary medicine,” Dr. Weisman said. “The fact that we continue to hear from campers years after they’ve completed the program, that tells us we’re making a positive impact.”

Is there an aspiring veterinary professional in your life?
The 2024 Boiler Vet Camp application is open through February 1! Competitive entry includes three short essays relating to the applicant’s interest in the veterinary medical profession and what they would like to get out of their camp experience. Successful applicants are selected based on the merit of their applications. Junior Camp is open to students entering 8th or 9th grade in the fall of 2024 with a minimum age of 12 years old. Students entering 10th, 11th, or 12th grade in the fall of 2024 may apply to the Senior Camp. Click here to learn more and apply.


Writer(s): Kat Braz | pvmnews@purdue.edu


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