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Mutt-i-grees® in the News Fall 2016

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We hope you enjoyed the summer and, like us, are off to a good start of the 2016/17 school year!

First, we want to bring you up to date on the success of last spring's Mission Mutt-i-grees® Challenge. Schools across the country accepted the challenge and came up with creative ways to make a difference in the lives of shelter pets in their communities.

With your help, Tour For Life® saved the lives of more than 2,300 shelter pets. Participating schools, libraries, and museums received the Mission Mutt-i-grees Banner to commemorate their efforts.

In Ashland, Ky., the Mutt-i-grees Teen Council organized several Tour For Life activities, culminating in the adoption of 30 pets and the mayoral declaration of March 20th as Tour For Life Day. But the teens didn't stop there. As you'll see in our lead story below, they spent part of their summer vacation addressing the plight of shelter animals and ensuring that some of them found responsible, loving homes.


Kentucky Students Help Transport Homeless Animals to Safety at Animal League America

On July 25th the Mutt-i-grees Teen Council in Ashland, Ky., met to prepare 36 homeless dogs for the long journey to New York. The Council, a group of high school students led by Mutt-i-grees Student Ambassador Layne Meek, worked tirelessly; they walked, bathed, fed, and played with the dogs the weekend before their departure. Monday morning rolled around, and with it came Animal League America's Mobile Rescue Unit. The students helped load the animals onto the unit, which traveled back to the Port Washington, N.Y., campus. In all likelihood, many of these pets would have been euthanized if not for this lifesaving mission.

This effort is an example of how shelter-school collaborations enable kids to put the skills they've learned from the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum into action and make a difference in their communities. We know there are many more examples of Mutt-i-grees students saving lives across the country. Please let us know what you're working on or planning to do in the coming year. We're here to help you!


Behind the Scenes With the Mutt-i-grees Team

The summer was busy, with professional development activities, internships, mentorship programs, and our partnerships with schools and libraries.

Arkansas Educators Present at Animal League America
Since day one, Arkansas has been a leader in the Curriculum's development. Educators in Arkansas were the first to pilot test all four phases of the Curriculum. They've also held professional development training sessions at several educational conferences around the state and arranged for the Governor to host a reception at the Governor's Mansion in honor of Mutt-i-grees.

In June, several educators from Arkansas came to Animal League America to share their secrets of success and update us on what they're doing. To see a video of their presentations, click here.

St. Martin de Porres Academy Summer Interns
Every year, different groups of students participate in Mutt-i-grees internships and mentorships. This summer, a large group of students from the entering class at Saint Martin de Porres Academy in New Haven, Conn., spent a week at North Shore Animal League America, learning about animal rescue, adoption, and other aspects of shelter operations.

The interns worked with veterinarians, groomers, and pet behaviorists. They even spent a day traveling to the Hempstead Town Animal Shelter to see firsthand how Animal League America collaborates with local municipal shelters to rescue pets and help them find responsible, loving homes.

This summer marked the sixth consecutive year that students from St. Martin de Porres took part in an internship. The school is committed to transforming the lives of its students through experiential education. Its leaders recognize that our Curriculum has the ability to help students discover interests that can lead to potential career paths - at the same time helping them develop social-emotional skills like empathy, self-confidence, and compassion. Once again, the internship was a great success, and we look forward to welcoming another group of eager students next year!


Dog Days of Summer at New York Public Libraries

This summer, the Mutt-i-grees Team traveled to libraries throughout New York City to bring Curriculum programming to children of all ages. In June, as part of a long-standing partnership with the New York Public Library, we hit the ground running with a Summer Reading Block Party at Edenwald Branch Library, in the Bronx. North Shore Animal League America brought its Mobile Adoption Unit, and we provided tons of Mutt-i-grees activities to engage the community. The event was a great way to educate and connect young readers with rescued pets outside of the classroom. We were thrilled to be a part of it. Plus, a librarian adopted a puppy who is now a regular library visitor!

After this "Get In the Game and Read" kickoff, the team spent the summer traveling to libraries throughout the boroughs of New York City, conducting children's and young adult educational programming. Each Mutt-i-grees visit brightened the faces of the children, parents, and librarians. We're excited to report that our partnership with the New York Public Library will be expanding throughout the fall and into the new year.


MercyFirst Interns Experience a Life-Changing Summer With Mutt-i-grees

Five teens learned the ins and outs of sheltering this summer, thanks to our service-learning Mutt-i-grees Mentorship. The students came from MercyFirst, a residential treatment center for children in need, located in Syosset, N.Y.

During their challenging two-month internship, the teenagers performed a long list of duties, including grooming, bathing, feeding, dog walking, dog training, cleaning, and assisting in our Pet Health Center. Not only did the students' perceptions of animals and animal care evolve as the summer went on, but their hard work had a tangible impact on Animal League America's operations.

In August, for example, the students assisted staff in unloading animals rescued from puppy mills in the Midwest. By this time, they'd learned how to handle animals, groom them, and understand their body language. All their hard work came full circle on that day. It was clear to the students and their mentors that the Curriculum's lessons about empathy, compassion, and resilience had made a difference not only in the lives of many animals, but also in the lives of the students themselves.


Purina/Mutt-i-grees St. Louis Partnership: Round 2!

In a previous issue of this newsletter, we told you about our growing partnership with Purina. This exciting development is giving educators and youth specialists in Greater St. Louis an opportunity to learn about and implement the Curriculum. Our first professional development session was so well received that Purina asked for more! We were thrilled to return to St. Louis for further professional development sessions at the end of July.

Our first task upon arrival was to present at the Character Plus Conference, where we connected with educational leaders in the community. Then it was on to Purina headquarters to meet with more schools, libraries, youth programs, and shelters. These organizations began to implement the Curriculum this summer, and many more are scheduled to begin implementation in the fall.

We look forward to expanding this powerful partnership to further the Curriculum's positive impact on more students and help save the lives of more pets.


It's Standing Room Only for M.U.T.T.S. in Oklahoma

If the recent overwhelming number of applicants for the M.U.T.T.S. Club at Bixby Intermediate School in Oklahoma is anything to go by, we'll have an inspiring generation of animal advocates to look forward to in the next few decades. In early September, Mutt-i-grees Student Ambassador Ragan Fletcher received more than 75 applications from students eager to join her district's M.U.T.T.S. Club for the upcoming school year.

M.U.T.T.S. Clubs are sprouting up across the country as a response to our Curriculum. "M.U.T.T.S.," an acronym for Motivated, Understanding, Thoughtful, Teenage Students, was coined by the original club in Arkansas. The clubs encourage empathy, compassion, and awareness of shelter pets, which Mutt-i-grees students in communities across the country are putting into practice.

In Bixby, applicants had to provide a written statement saying why they wished to join. First, they had to care deeply about animals. In addition, they had to see a future in which they could contribute to animal welfare as leaders in their schools and communities.

"News about the club was really word of mouth," says Shanna Fletcher, Ragan's mother and a 5th Grade Mutt-i-grees educator. "Ragan's club is on fire!"

We can't wait to see all the great things the Bixby M.U.T.T.S. Club accomplishes this school year!


Mutt-i-grees Leaders Making a Difference

Thanks to our enterprising Mutt-i-grees National Trainer Judy Clay, many preschoolers in Arkansas are getting to know Mutt-i-grees. Clay, a longtime Mutt-i-grees educator and former Director of Early Childhood Special Education, has been busy providing training throughout Arkansas. She accomplished a lot this summer, but says there is much more to come, so stay tuned.

Norma Meek, Mutt-i-grees Educational and Project Development Consultant based in Ashland, Ky., has been hard at work training new Mutt-i-grees educators for the school year. In just one month, Norma trained six teachers to integrate the Curriculum at McKell Elementary, in the Greenup County School District.


What We're Reading

They All Saw A Cat, August 30, 2016,
by Brendan Wenzel

A picture book that explores perception, curiosity and imagination through the eyes of a cat. Each character in the story sees the cat in a different way, making for a visual and engrossing journey through various points of view. To the dog, the cat looks skinny and scrawny; to the mouse, the cat is all teeth and giant claws! The publisher also offers a free activity kit and discussion to download that comes with a drawing, a cat mask and a pin on the collar cat game.

Wish, August 30, 2016,
by Barbara O’Connor

Eleven-year-old Charlie moves to a new town to live with family she barely knows. It’s there she meets Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart. Charlie is overcome with desire to give Wishbone the loving home that she is also searching for. In “Wish” we get a heartwarming story with genuine characters who teach the protagonist about the importance of family and friendship.


Keeping You Informed

My Name/My Identity is a new campaign to increase awareness of the importance of correctly pronouncing students' names. If you have an uncommon first or last name, you know firsthand how embarrassing it is to hear your name mispronounced or to watch someone stumble while trying to figure out how to say it. For children from immigrant families, hearing their names mispronounced can be more than an occasional embarrassment; it happens regularly and underscores the fact that they are different and don't truly belong. But when educators take the time to learn students' names, it signals respect and cultural acknowledgment, enabling students to be confident and take pride in their names and heritages. To find out more about the campaign, please click here.


Coming Soon

2016/17 National Student Ambassadors We received many nominations for the 2016/17 National Student Mutt-i-grees Ambassador Program. We narrowed the selection to several who stood out as the best. Check the Mutt-i-grees website for the upcoming announcement.

New York City Schools Expand Mutt-i-grees Several initiatives are underway in New York City, significantly enhancing our reach in that huge school district. Included are plans to pilot test having dogs in several schools, following the example of Shelby at Shell Bank Junior High School, in Brooklyn. Click here to see the Shell Bank video.

Also, Jayne Vitale and several Mutt-i-grees team members will be working with the New York City Department of Education this winter to bring Mutt-i-grees programming to the Bridgehaven Family Transitional Residence for 10 weeks.


Upcoming Conferences & Events

October 6, 2016
NYC DOE Mutt-i-grees Dogs
in the Classroom Pilot Program
New York, NY

October 18, 2016
Purina Summit - Better with Pets
Mutt-i-grees Exhibit
Brooklyn Expo Center
Brooklyn, NY

November 6-8, 2016
Missouri School Counselors: We Got the Beat!
Tan-Tar-A Resort
Osage Beach, MO

November 9-11, 2016
Mutt-i-grees & Queens College at
Continuing Education Association of NY Conference
Suffern, NY

November 15, 2016
NYC School Library System
27th Annual Fall Conference
Citi Field
Flushing, NY

Spring, 2017 (Dates - TBD)
Mutt-i-grees Curriculum Certificate Program
Queens College
Flushing, NY


Click here for a complete list of New York Public Library Mutt-i-grees in the Library Workshops

For more information on Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum training click here.