Teddy, a new calf for W.J. Keenan High School’s animal sciences program. (Photos by Madeline Hager/Carolina News and Reporter)

A suckling calf is not what most would expect to find in Richland One School District – but it’s a run-of-the-mill encounter for many students at W.J. Keenan High School.

Keenan’s Animal Science Program, led by Maria Ausburn, has been running since 2017. About 80 students are taking part this year.

The program merges theoretical learning and hands-on agricultural experience. Three days a week, students test the skills they learn in class by caring for many farm animals on campus.

“Usually, I’m on pigs and sheep duty – the sheep are my favorite,” said MacKenzie Glover, a junior. “One of them is named Mirabel. I got to take her home last year because she was a bottle baby. There’s never a dull moment on the farm.”

Glover also takes part in Keenan’s engineering program and plans to pursue veterinary science after graduation.

“Dairy cows were our first unit,” Glover said. “I went on a college tour at North Carolina State University, and they have every single cow breed. I was with my mom, pointing each one out like, ‘I learned this in class!’”

Aside from Teddy, the new miniature cow, Keenan is home to multiple dogs, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens.

Students in the program frequently partake in community outreach events. Elementary students from nearby school districts visit Keenan’s animals year-round to learn about farm life. More than 400 children will get to bottle-feed and play with Teddy on Feb. 22.

Teddy was rejected by his mother shortly after birth, with nowhere to go. The calf was scouted by Ausburn herself for the animal sciences program on Facebook Marketplace.

 “The location was about a 45-minute drive away,” said Zaniya Dukes, another student and the current president of Keenan’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter. 

Dukes is one of multiple paid interns in the animal sciences program. She traveled by plane for the first time in November when Keenan attended the FFA’s 96th national convention in Indianapolis. 

In addition to learning practical skills, students can receive official certification from OSHA for their work before graduation.

“The only way that we’re able to keep programs like this going is through support from our administrators, district and community,” Ausburn said. “We always have an open-door policy and believe in educating the future.”

Keenan plans to hold a “goat yoga” event for members of the community later this spring.

The sessions will be hosted by a Keenan alumna and will help raise money for the school’s animal science program.

Maria Ausburn, animal life sciences program lead and instructor, showcases newborn goats. (Photo by Kayla Medlin/Carolina News and Reporter)

Teddy suckles, waiting to be fed. (Photo by Caroline Farrell/Carolina News and Reporter)

Keenan sheep dog trails after newborn goats. (Photo by Caroline Farrell/Carolina News and Reporter)

Newborn goats run around the pasture. (Photo by Kayla Medlin/Carolina News and Reporter)


Caroline Farrell

Caroline Farrell

Farrell is a senior advertising major and retail minor at the University of South Carolina. She is president of Zeta Phi Eta Beta Mu and an intern at Sircle Media. She is a student in this semester’s special projects photojournalism class. After graduation, she hopes to work for an advertising agency in New York City.

Kayla Medlin

Kayla Medlin

Medline is a senior visual communications major with a minor in dance at the University of South Carolina. She loves photography and video just like her mom and grandfather, who are her inspirations. She is a student in this semester’s special projects photojournalism class.

Madeline Hager

Madeline Hager

Hager is a junior multimedia journalism major, and entrepreneurship and graphic design double-minor at the University of South Carolina. Hager is a photographer for The Daily Gamecock and handled media and marketing for a music festival in Florida. She is a student in this semester’s special projects photojournalism class.

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