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Gridley Herald

Gridley High Gets Their Goats

Nov 21, 2023 02:17PM ● By Melody McDowell, photos by Melody McDowell

The focus for the goats’ first few weeks at school has been socialization – for the goats and the kids to get familiar with each other and their needs.

GRIDLEY, CA (MPG) - Among the exciting things that have been happening at Gridley High School over the last few months are two young goats who have moved into the campus barn this fall. Milly and Lily are female pygmy goats, and since their arrival in October, they have been stealing hearts and enriching the educational experience of students with severe disabilities at GHS.

It all started last year, when Ella and Grace Hughes put the idea forward to the GHS Site Council – can we bring some animals to campus specifically for our students who have disabilities? Many of them do not have the opportunity to participate fully in the school’s extensive Agriculture and FFA programs, and the documented benefits of interaction with animals, particularly for individuals with special needs, are significant.

A young man brushes Lily with a curry comb as a young woman holds her.

Principal Rikki-Lee Burresch loved the idea and went to work on it. She was able to dedicate $5,000 of already-available LCAP funds to the project for purchasing and caring for the two goats on campus.

Now that the goats are here, plans and possibilities are unfolding rapidly. Doug Mocek, who is a special ed resource specialist at GHS, is excited about the experiences this project is providing to his students. His cheerful greeting and obvious enthusiasm for the work he does speaks volumes about the quality of the experiences these kids are and will be getting to have over the next several months.

 Students give the goats a treat. Lily delights them by dropping to her knees to catch what has fallen to the ground.

Ms. Madelyn Vaca’s intermediate animal science class, which provides transferrable Butte College credit, has taken on a lot of responsibility for the goats initially, even getting hands-on experience providing needed vaccines. They are providing much of the instructional support to their peers who have disabilities, as they introduce, teach, and guide them in what needs to be done to care for Lily and Milly. Ms. Vaca spoke warmly of the great benefit it is to her students, not only the opportunity to mentor but to have the hands-on experience, in-house, of handling these animals and planning for their future.

 The plan is for students to be involved in every aspect of the goats’ care, from feeding and grooming to cleanup.

FFA Reporter Joe Schohr stated that ultimately, the hope is that much of the daily care will be completely turned over to the Special Ed class, and that these students will be the ones who learn to prep the goats for show and participate in the shows themselves. Other Animal Science classes may take over aspects such as basic veterinary care and eventual breeding.