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Little Blue Elementary School in Independence, MO Wins $1,500 Grant As Regional Winners Of The 2nd Annual Mutt-i-grees® “America Adopts” PSA Contest With Their Message, “Adoption is Their Second Chance”

World-Renowned Dog Behavior Specialist Cesar Millan Presents Educators with Prize- Winning Check at Annual Rescue Awards in New York City

Renowned dog behavior specialist Cesar Millan (far left), NSALA President John Stevenson (far right), and Associate Director, Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy Director, Yale School of the 21st Century, Dr. Matia Finn-Stevenson (center) present a $1,500 educational grant to Regional Prize Winners of the Mutt-i-grees “America Adopts” PSA Contest. Educators from Little Blue Elementary School in Independence, MO 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): Millan; Christine Taylor, School Counselor; Finn-Stevenson; Jennifer Younghans, Coordinator, Kids’ Safari Before and After School Program, and Stevenson.


INDEPENDENCE, MO (January 2, 2013) – Little Blue Elementary School in Independence, MO is among the winners of the 2nd Annual Mutt-i-grees “America Adopts” PSA Contest. As Regional Winners, the School has received a $1,500 educational grant for their PSA, “Adoption is Their Second Chance.” The check was presented to school representatives by world-renowned Dog Behavior Specialist Cesar Millan at North Shore Animal League America’s DogCatemy Mutt-i-grees Rescue Awards Gala on December 17, 2012 in New York City.

The PSA Contest is a nationwide initiative to raise awareness of the availability and desirability of shelter pets, otherwise known as Mutt-i-grees. Students from across the country submitted creative PSAs encouraging Americans to adopt from their local shelter or rescue group. The contest reflects the essence of the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum, a unique approach to teaching children social and emotional skills as well as highlighting the individual characteristics and needs of Mutt-i-grees. The Curriculum was developed by Yale University School of the 21st Century in collaboration with North Shore Animal League America and funded by the Cesar Millan Foundation.

The winning video features two adopted dogs, Fuzz and Charlie, and the kids who tell their stories. Jennifer Younghans, coordinator for the Kids’ Safari Before and After School Program, who helped supervise the creation of the PSA, says she was impressed by how the students interacted with the animals who appear in the video – and how articulate the children were in describing each dog’s character traits after spending time with and observing them. “Fuzz shows compassion,” says one child in the video – of the dog who is standing next to her and being petted by a fellow student – “because he doesn’t scratch and bite.” Of another dog, a student explains, “Charlie shows courage…because he was left on the side of the road.” She adds that this happened to poor, brave Charlie when he was only two months old. After that rough start in life, Charlie ended up in a shelter and was later adopted.

The pet-owning students who were working on the video were very interested in the subject matter. “Their pets are a part of their families,” Jennifer explains. In the end, “It was really based on what the kids wanted to say.” Students reflected on the process of making the PSA, saying, “It was fun because it was our own ideas.”

Both dogs are now members of the families of school staff members – Fuzz belonging to Amanda Terry, who, along with Lauren Daniels, works with Jennifer and helped with the filming. The project was also done in collaboration with Special Education Director Cindy Konomis, Guidance Counselor Chrissy Taylor and Youth Development Director Jennifer Walker.

“The students at Little Blue Elementary School really captured the essence of what we teach in the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum,” said Cesar Millan. “The Curriculum seeks to enhance children’s ability to consider another’s perspective—whether an animal or person—and the impact of one’s actions. The student’s PSA mirrored the Curriculum’s core values: fostering empathy, compassion and responsible decision-making.”

As a teacher, Jennifer praises the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum for its ability to bring out student creativity. Using the Curriculum, students have begun creating their own Mutt-i-grees puppets. The Curriculum also allows students to use their imaginations to do role-playing activities that allow them to give voice to how they envision these loving and innocent animals feeling.

According to Ms. Younghans, Little Blue Elementary has always had a character education program. The program became more formalized a few years ago, with each month featuring a new positive character trait for which students are taught improvement strategies. More recently, the school joined after school programs in sixteen elementary and middle schools in the district, along with the Independence Academy, to implement the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum. Independence, MO is a national model for (and the first to implement) the Yale University School of the 21st Century (Yale 21C) program.

Dr. Matia Finn-Stevenson, Associate Director of the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy Director of Yale 21C, who developed the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum, has been the evaluator for the Independence, MO Safari and Latitude Clubs After School Programs. She says that her longitudinal evaluations have indicated, “significant positive impact of the programs on student achievement and behavior.”

The contest was open to schools that teach children in any, or all, of the following Grades: Pre-K, Kindergarten and Grades 1-8. The PSAs were judged by a panel of experts from both Animal League America and The Cesar Millan Foundation based on originality, creativity and persuasiveness. The PSA Contest is a nationwide initiative and collaboration of North Shore Animal League America, the Yale University School of the 21st Century and the Cesar Millan Foundation.

To learn more about the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum or to view all of the winning PSAs visit


The Mutt-i-grees “America Adopts” Second Chance PSA Contest gives all runner-up schools that submitted a public service announcement to this year’s contest 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 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. For contest rules, a list of the winners and videos still in the running, please visit

The Mutt-i-grees Curriculum is an innovative program that builds on the affinity between children and animals, providing a unique context to teach compassion, empathy and social responsibility. Developed by the Yale School of the 21st Century in collaboration with North Shore Animal League America, and funded by the Cesar Millan Foundation, the Curriculum highlights the unique characteristics and desirability of shelter dogs, known as Mutt-i-grees. To learn more, visit

The Animal League has saved more than 1,000,000 lives. As the world’s largest no-kill rescue and adoption organization, we understand that a rescue isn’t complete until each animal is placed into a loving home. Our innovative programs provide education to reduce animal cruelty and advance standards in animal welfare. Our staff and volunteers work tirelessly in the pursuit of our vision of a world where all companion animals find permanent homes to end euthanasia. For more information, visit

Animal activist and world-renowned dog behaviorist Cesar Millan officially established the Cesar Millan Foundation with the mission to create and deliver community humane education programs and promote animal welfare. Since its inception in 2007, the Cesar Millan Foundation has provided grants and materials to hundreds of non-profit animal organizations to support the rescue, rehabilitation, and rehoming of abused and abandoned dogs; donated emergency assistance through the Daddy's Emergency Animal Rescue (DEAR) Fund, and contributed critical funding and professional insight to develop The Mutt-i-grees Curriculum with The Pet Savers Foundation, in collaboration with the Yale University School of the 21st Century. For more information visit

Media Contacts:

Nancy Lewis
Little Blue Elementary School

Devera Lynn
North Shore Animal League America
[email protected]