Ahwatukee Foothills resident Alexa Williams recently spent time dissecting organs, learning about anatomy, observing surgeries and practicing first aid in a unique program that offers teens a look at real-life veterinary medicine.

Williams participated in Camp Vet, a summer program of the Arizona Animal Welfare League and Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (AAWL & SPCA). Interested in a career with animals, she says she enjoyed the hands-on courses with instructors who have experience in veterinary medicine. She's not sure if she wants to become a vet but says that the program has shown her career possibilities, including working as an animal behaviorist.

Camp Vet participants observe surgeries in the AAWL & SPCA veterinary clinic, dissect organs and learn about anatomy, practice hands-on pet first aid and explore how animal diseases can be very different than those that affect humans.

Williams, who will be a senior at Desert Vista High School, also will intern with the AAWL & SPCA foster program, helping make sure that animals are ready to go to foster homes while they await adoption. She has participated in other AAWL & SPCA learning programs and was named the organization's Outstanding Teen Volunteer of 2009.

AAWL & SPCA is home to the largest humane education program in Arizona, offering programs for ages 3 through adult. Programs for children and teens also include Camp Ruffin' It day camp, Home School Thursdays, Girl Scout workshops, Teen Tracks volunteer leadership program and school visits. Through the programs, children learn how to humanely treat animals and interact with some of the Education Department's animal ambassadors, such as Guapo, a 5-foot-long green iguana; Romeo, a ferret; and Oliver, a cockatoo.

AAWL & SPCA also operates the state's oldest and largest no-kill animal shelter.

For more information on Camp Vet, Camp Ruffin' It, or other programs for kids and teens, visit www.aawl.org or call (602) 273-6852, ext. 122.

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