PERRYSBURG – Her experience at Penta Career Center changed Elizabeth Wauford’s career goals.
She came to Penta for its small animal care program because she wanted to be a large animal vet, she said.
Wauford said always wanted to have large animals. She watched a lot of vet shows and decided “that’s it, I’m going to work with large animals.”
Once she started her senior year, she got the opportunity to work with the hellbenders “and everything changed.
“I’m going to do conservation biology and I’m going to work with endangered animals,” Wauford said.
In a partnership between the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Toledo Zoo and the Ohio Hellbender Partnership, the eastern hellbender, which is a state-endangered species, live in a modified classroom at Penta and then are released into the wild.
The eastern hellbender is Ohio’s largest amphibian, and some may live more than 60 years.
Wauford plans to study conservation biology at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. She said she chose that school for its proximity to the hellbender population in Ohio.
She said she came to Penta from Northwood High School knowing about the hellbenders.
When Wauford was little, she and her dad would collect salamanders and snakes.
Getting to work with an endangered species has been “really cool.”
“That’s not something that high schoolers usually get to do.”
Penta gets the hellbenders as eggs and then raises them for three years. Once they’re big enough, they are released.
“We’re trying to get the population back up, so we keep them safe until they’re big enough they’re not going to be eaten,” Wauford said.
Her goal is to get a bachelor’s degree and then be able to work with hellbenders in southern Ohio.
“I’m not really sure how I want to work with them yet, because there’s a lot of different (options)” she said.
Wauford chose Penta for its hands-on environment and less sitting at a desk.
“I get to do something I love. I get to work with animals all day,” she said.
She said she has 10 ball pythons at home “because I think they’re really cool.”
She also has two tortoises and five geckos.
Wauford has been a member of the soccer, basketball and softball teams at Northwood and participates in travel softball.
She plans to play softball in college.
Her name was shortened to Ebeth by her fellow soccer members and then shortened again to EB.
“I love it,” Wauford said.
At Penta, she is a member of the Drug Free Club and FFA and serves as a student ambassador.
She lived in Northwood until her sophomore year then moved to Gibsonburg.
She is the daughter of Bill and Erin Wauford.