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'Adopt a Champion Mutt-i-gree'

Renowned dog behavior specialist Cesar Millan (2nd from left), NSALA President John Stevenson (3rd from left), and Associate Director, Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy Director, Yale School of the 21st Century, Dr. Matia Finn-Stevenson (2nd from right) present a $1,500 educational grant to Regional Prize Winners of the Mutt-i-grees “America Adopts” PSA Contest. Educators from Fenton Avenue Charter School in Lake View Terrace, CA attended the 2012 DogCatemy Mutt-i-grees Rescue Awards Gala at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, where the check was presented. In attendance (left to right): Jessi Tello, teacher; Millan; Stevenson; Finn-Stevenson, and Irene Sumida, Principal.


For Fenton Avenue Charter School Mutt-i-grees® “America Adopts” PSA Contest Regional Winners, Students’ Love for Shelter Pets Come to Life

According to one proud teacher, Barbara Aragón, the unique and innovative Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum has had an enormous positive impact on Fenton Avenue Charter School in Lake View Terrace, CA since it was first implemented three years ago. The latest positive result of the Curriculum for her school, where she serves as lead Mutt-i-grees teacher, is that the school’s PSA (public service announcement) has won a $1,500 grant as a regional winner of this year’s Mutt-i-grees “America Adopts” PSA Contest. This year, Mutt-i-grees “America Adopts” PSA Contest participants from all across the country created PSAs that would raise awareness about Mutt-i-grees and encourage people to adopt rather than purchase pets.

Ms. Aragón describes the process of making the PSA, an animated video called “Adopt a Champion Mutt-i-gree,” as “really a team effort.” Using the Curriculum as their guide, she and her colleagues led the students through brainstorming, storyboarding and creating illustrations. The many and varied dogs that appear in the animated video are the result of an after-school drawing contest that the school held for 4th and 5th graders, who were asked to “create [their] Mutt-i-gree,” based on their own adopted pets or, if they preferred, based on a compilation of several animals.

To give life to the Mutt-i-grees that the students drew, teachers at the school acquired a computer animation program (which will soon be used with students as part of an after-school program). Jessi Tello, one of the teachers who collaborated in making the PSA, quickly set about learning to use the program through a process of trial and error. The winning Mutt-i-gree illustrations, as well as pictures that participating students drew of themselves, were scanned in and brought to life. Then students’ voices were brought in.

The students and teachers knew that they wanted to have “a hook” at the end, so they proceeded to pull key words from their discussions, and music teacher Kim Treat wrote a jingle, which Shannon Coulter’s and Natasha Keifer’s students then performed. “Adopt a Mutt-i-gree,” the singers urge us. “Let’s make the winning choice.” According to Ms. Aragón, the project involved the collaboration of many students and faculty – along with a lot of revising and editing. They were surprised at what a great video they were able to produce together in a short amount of time.

According to Ms. Aragón, the video’s “Adopt a Champion Mutt-i-gree” theme was inspired by the summer Olympics. Teachers asked students, if there were a dog Olympics, what would their dogs be a champion at doing? It was this discussion that inspired the inclusion in the animated video of a dog named Spike, a “champion Mutt-i-gree” who is a gold medalist in (as only a 4th or 5th-grader could put it) “the chowdown event.” We watch as Spike eagerly eats. “It’s their voices and their words,” Ms. Aragón proudly explains.

Two of the three Fenton Charter Public Schools, all of which operate together under the direction of the schools’ Executive Director, Principal Irene Sumida, are currently implementing the Curriculum. These include Fenton Primary Center (which operates under the leadership of Richard Parra) and PSA Contest regional winner Fenton Avenue Charter School (led by Dr. Michelle Rappino). In addition, Santa Monica Boulevard Community Charter School, led by Dr. David Riddick and Vahe Markarian, has begun receiving training in preparation to implement the curriculum as well.

Ms. Aragón says that the program, which the students love, has “opened up a huge conversation for a lot of our kids about pet responsibility,” to the point where students recently collaborated to run their own food drive for Burbank Animal Shelter. Local shelter staff have also come in to talk to students about people’s responsibility to pets, and, according to Ms. Aragón, “They are floored by what these kids know. The kids know their stuff.”

Inspired by the Curriculum’s emphasis on teamwork and other interpersonal skills, the school has also implemented their own unique “Mutt-i-gree Buddies” program which they’ve affectionately nicknamed “Budd-i-grees.” This program matches upper grade students with students from lower grades in a mentoring relationship. “The kids love each other, and they love the program,” Aragón says.

Runners-Up Get Second Chance at Mutt-i-grees® “America Adopts” PSA Contest

Every Mutt-i-gree deserves a second chance at a happy, new life. Now, thanks to the Mutt-i-grees “America Adopts” Second Chance PSA Contest, every runner-up school that submitted a public service announcement to this year’s contest also has a second chance at winning! Of the schools still in the running, the top three will be chosen by popular vote.

The video that gets the most plays wins a $1,500 educational grant for the school of the students who made it. Second and third-place prizes will be $1,000 and $500, respectively. Everyone is encouraged to help their favorite school win. Voting begins January 2 and runs through January 16.

Back to Meet the Winners of the 2012 Mutt-i-grees "America Adopts" PSA Contest