West River Vet Foundation awards first scholarships

The West River Veterinary Clinic Legacy Foundation awarded what they hope is the first of many scholarships to area students.

By COLE BENZ | Record Editor

Alec Andress (Hettinger High School), Sierra Jenkens (Harding County High School), and Kathryn Herring (Mott-Regent High School) were all 2017 recipients of the newly established scholarship named for Bert R. Berg, DVM.

Berg was one of the first doctors that started West River Veterinarian Clinic, along with Dr. Uecker. Berg had spent his career in the community and was an avid supporter of kids and kids organizations and sporting activities. His photo is displayed outside of the large gymnasium at Hettinger High School in his honor. Andress also said he kept in touch with students after graduation, like himself.

“He kept in touch all the way through [college],” Andress said. “That was a real lesson for me, in that if you keep a connection with the kids, there’s a connection process that you can make and help people bring them back.

In such a short time after a big project, they were happy to issue these funds this year.

“It’s nice to be able to enter into the foundation, in or first year, and be able to offer scholarships,” Dr. Ethan Andress, DVM, said. “We were able to reward three students.”

It has been just over a year since the vet clinic opened the doors to a brand new facility, and Andress had previously told the Record that he had always hoped to start a foundation that would help in giving back to the community. And he was happy to start it so quickly after the building project.

“It’s a whole new adventure,” he said about “We’re just coming off the big building project, sometimes it would be easy to get bogged down and this gave us a new direction to head.”

Andress added that their efforts were made easier by a flow of community support. Many local families like the Berg family came up with much of the funding, along with the vet clinic themselves, to just start the program.

“We were able to get a good start this first year,” Andress said.

Down the road, Andress wants to develop the scholarship program to help more kids in their service are, which includes Adams and the surrounding counties, like Grant, Hettinger, Bowman, and Slope, among others in South Dakota.

“Our big driving goal for the project is to really develop our rural communities,” Andress said.

He and the board want to do that by bringing people back to the area that already have that experience of living in a rural setting. They hope that by getting students into the different fields of agriculture, medicine, or animal science—which is the three programs students need to be going into to qualify for the scholarships—that they will want to come back and use their education and skills to work in their home communities. He cited his connection with Dr. Berg as a testament to that process working.

The foundation hopes to expand and award more scholarships, and for larger amounts. But Andress said they also want to support those who are already in the middle of their education. West River Veterinary Clinic is unique in the type of facility they have for the location they are at. It’s comparable to facilities in larger communities and cities, and said he wants to be able to support expenses for students looking for externships in Hettinger. He wants to be able to show students that you can work in a top-notch facility in a rural community.

“Part of that process was giving them the experience to see that we have a great environment for developing a career,” he said. “If they don’t get that experience they’re not going to know it’s here.”

Andress also said that even if you don’t feel like you apply to the perimeters of the scholarship, students should apply, he said that sometimes students are hesitant because they don’t feel like they apply

“We left it pretty broad because we want to get as many applicants as possible,” he said. “You just have to see how your degree applies to rural America.”