In June of 2016, I accepted a position at Franklin Boys Preparatory Academy as their AVID Coordinator. The evening I accepted the position, I happened upon two women with their service dogs in training. After a brief discussion with them, I spoke to my husband about possibly raising a service dog with my new students. As an AVID class, my students must prepare for their future and I help them develop college prep skills. One of those skills is volunteerism. What better way to introduce them to this skill, than by allowing them to raise a puppy that would ultimately change the life of a veteran in need?
After completing an application, I was put in touch with Southeastern Guide Dogs MacDill Puppy Raiser Group. The MacDill group raises puppies for Paws for Patriots. These dogs will be given to a veteran in need, once they have successfully completed training. I knew this would be a perfect organization, since our school houses the only Gold Star Memorial in the state of Florida and supported our military in the past by raising the funds to build the memorial.
The boys were introduced to the program through a guest speaker who brought in a pup and explained the program. Almost immediately, many of the boys came to me and asked if we could raise a puppy at our school to help a veteran in need. A month later Georgie came into our lives.
Georgie came to us in September 2016 at 9 weeks old, and will leave us to go in for formal training in October 2017. Our ultimate goal is for Georgie to become a guide dog for a veteran who is visually impaired. We are committed to raising and training Georgie, so she will give a veteran his/her freedom to live life once again. If Georgie is not chosen to become a guide, then she may fall into the category of a PTSD dog or a facility dog—all of which will help the heroes of our country.
My students are making an impact in their community by spending time viewing videos and working with volunteers from Southeastern Guide Dogs who explain the importance of training and the phases of training the pups must endure to become a guide; they have also attended meetings on nights and weekends in order to expose Georgie to various situations. The students have held fundraisers for Southeastern, such as a bake sale and donation collections. In addition, the boys worked on a 20X Project that raised awareness for Southeastern and created prototypes of various devices that would make raising a guide dog in training easier for the volunteer. The boys also hosted a puppy day in which the MacDill Puppy Raisers came out with their pups and visited classrooms throughout the school to talk about the program. In May, my boys skyped with a class in Kansas to discuss their experiences and the benefits of having Georgie in the classroom, as well as the impact she will make in the life of a veteran.
What started as a classroom service project has bloomed into a schoolwide commitment. Our school will begin raising a new puppy in October, after Georgie moves on to Guide Dog University. Although Georgie will take a piece of our hearts with her when she leaves, we are proud to have raised her with a purpose to help others! Georgie has made a difference in our lives and we cannot wait to hear of the impact she makes for whomever she is matched with after training.
Franklin Boys Preparatory Academy is proud to give back to our community by raising superheroes for America’s heroes!
Check out the Buncees we made below!