Boomerang to Young People: ‘Don’t Write this Area Off’

WARREN, Ohio — Chelsea Causgrove thought she wanted to be a journalist or maybe a teacher. Like many high school seniors, she was undecided about a career, but followed the path students were being directed toward: college. 

The Champion High School graduate says her parents wanted her to go to college, but always encouraged her to do what made her happy. 

Still ambiguous toward a profession, she was decisive about one thing, spreading her wings. 

“I wanted to live in a big city from the time I was 10,” she says. “I was adamant about leaving.”

And she did. She moved 200 miles away to attend Ohio University in Athens. Reluctant about becoming a teacher, she left OU after two years when she learned about a veterinary technician program in Pittsburgh. 

After earning an associate degree as a veterinary technician, she worked with horses in Burton and even for a short stint at the nearby Countryside Veterinary Service. But the lure of living in a big city lingered. In less than a year, she was headed back to Pittsburgh to work at an animal emergency hospital. 

She wound up working at the University of Pittsburgh doing research, got married, had a son and, after seven years of big-city living, she realized she wanted to return to Champion with its rural feel.

Like many boomerangs, she missed being around family. She wanted to rear her son in the small town with a good school system and reduce the daily stress of urban life. “You get to a point where your priorities change around family,” says the 32-year-old. 

She is an example of The Business Journal‘s Brain Gain: Building a Culture of Entrepreneurship and Workforce Development program, which seeks solutions to keep our young talent here, return talent who left and attract new talent.

Causgrove always had a love for animals, growing up with horses, Boxers and other animals. A friend of her father was a veterinarian. It was something that always intrigued her, but she never thought of it as a career. 

After graduating from the Vet Tech Institute in Pittsburgh, she took the Veterinary Technician National Exam. Students must pass the VTNE to be eligible for licensure in Ohio, which is required to legally practice as a registered veterinary technician. 

“I’m not sure if it was being around my father’s friend, or just liking animals that led me to my career? My parents were just happy that I found my calling. What I do is similar to nursing, only for animals,” she explains. 

While she was in Pittsburgh, she left the clinical side of working with animals. Her work involved regenerative and biomedical research and work on vaccinations for tuberculosis. She met her future husband while working at Pitt, and was happy in the Steel City for seven years until the couple had their son, Holden. Rearing a child in a big city caused childhood memories of her small-town upbringing to reemerge.

But her husband, who is from Pittsburgh, didn’t want to move. So she decided to return with Holden to her family in October 2019. The parents share custody of their son, who will be 4 at the end of this month.

“It was a big change moving back, but it was nice not being so go, go, go all the time,” she says. “And you don’t have to deal with the traffic and all of the people.” 

Another big change, according to Causgrove is, “it’s far less expensive here, and that’s a major plus.” 

Day care in Pittsburgh was so expensive and just to drive to a local Walmart took her 40 minutes.

“So much has changed around here, and there is a lot more to do,” she says, realizing the Champion area along Mahoning Avenue had sprung up with shopping and restaurants. 

“I really thought I was going to be spending a lot of time sitting on the couch, but I’ve met up with old friends and it’s so nice for entertainment or to go out to eat.”

She returned to work at Countryside Veterinary Service in Champion. “The vets there are great and so smart and progressive,” she says.  

It was no different to learn how progressive the area has become as far as recreation and entertainment. 

“Even downtown Warren has a lot going on since I lived here. They have a brewery, the West & Main, the Speakeasy Lounge and even a winery,” she says. “It’s so different.”

She’s happy that she could leave to spread her wings, but wonders if things would have been different had a career choice that involved animals been available when she was in high school.

The Trumbull Career and Technical Center began offering some programing in animal science in 2006, Causgrove’s senior year. TCTC now offers Animal Science/Health & Technology. 

The program is for entry-level careers as a veterinary assistant, basic groomer, veterinary receptionist, kennel care associate or pet store associate. It also can kick-start one’s skills in pursuing further education. 

Kent State University at Trumbull began to offer a degree in veterinary technology in fall 2006. There are 24 openings a year for the program. Eastern Gateway Community College is working on a program that could be launched in less than a year, says Arthur Daly, vice president of the Youngstown campus.

KSU Trumbull’s website uses the term “veterinary nurse” to best describe the job, as does Causgrove. Vet techs perform duties as dental hygienists, surgical assistants, scrub nurses, anesthesia technicians, radiology technicians, lab technicians, microbiologists, client service specialists, communications experts, transcriptionists, pharmacology technicians, managers, nutritionists, animal trainers, behavior counselors and more.

Causgrove says she sees a growing effort for a legal name change from registered veterinary technician to veterinary nurse. 

She understands why there was a push to attend college because she remembers at a young age when Copperweld Steel closed and adults talked about it. She also remembers her aunt losing her job when the local General Electric plant closed. 

Causgrove is a proponent of students going to career and technical centers. Both her niece and nephew attend career centers. 

She believes it’s important for students to explore options, spread their wings in other places, whether going away to school, or to start a career. But you don’t have to flee the area to be happy. “Don’t write this area off,” she says. “This is home and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Everything is here.”