Emilie Lombardi knows she wants to be a veterinarian.

The Charleston Animal Society’s “Shadowing at the Shelter” program has just confirmed it.

“I volunteer here a lot and when I heard about this program, I knew I wanted to do it,” said the First Baptist freshman.

On Friday, she and 11 other girls from high schools across the Lowcountry spent the day in the society’s operating room, watching spay and neuter procedures.

“It didn’t bother me at all,” Lombardi said of the operating room. “I can’t wait until next month.”

That’s when participants will get to perform an animal dissection and do their own spay/neuter procedure.

“We are prepared in case any of them aren’t comfortable with this or feel sick watching it,” said De Daltorio, director of humane education.

During the course, students learned about how the shelter works, watched exams, learned how to draw blood, read X-rays, diagnose disease, and more.

“These courses are intensely scientific in nature,” said shelter spokeswoman Kay Hyman. “They are hands-on utilizing the animals and veterinarians within our shelter. There is no other opportunity or experience like this available in any classroom setting. We focus on ethical questions facing the animals and their care, art and the science requirements for advancing a career as a veterinarian. We also make sure that the students get plenty of time working with the animals and that they have fun.”

The society has identified education as one of its missions, she said, and that led to the class, which was offered for the first time in the Spring.

“We had tremendous positive feedback from parents and students, which led to our offering the course again,” Hyman said.

There is a wait list for the five-course program, which is geared toward high school students. It will be offered again in January.

Teachers also have requested lessons they can bring to their classrooms, Daltorio said.

As a result, the society is establishing “VSI: A Veterinary Science Initiative” with funding through the American Honda Foundation.

The program, which will be offered to high schools in the North Charleston area, includes an introduction by shelter staff, followed by five lessons taught by teachers in their classrooms and ends with a field trip to the shelter.

Students will focus on veterinary science, microbiology, parasitology, cardiology, clinical pathology, public health, and disease, Daltorio said.

“The lessons and content are based on the idea of integrating ‘hard’ science concepts and techniques with other areas of emphasis including law, art, and ethics,” Daltorio said. “It also encourages science students to use their knowledge to engage societal issues and problems. This gives science more meaning and involves students that might not normally engage in the classroom.”