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2016/17 National Mutt-i-grees® Student Ambassadors Year-End Update

When we introduced our 2016/17 National Mutt-i-grees® Student Ambassadors last fall, we dubbed them “Our Formidable Fourteen.” We’re happy to report that they lived up to their billing, and then some.

During the past year, this busy group addressed pet homelessness in ways both large and small. No matter what approach they took, their combined efforts advanced the Mutt-i-grees message in their communities and helped hundreds of dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens find responsible, loving homes.

Ranging in age from 7 to 17, our ambassadors also discovered how effective teamwork can be, working shoulder-to-shoulder with their peers in campus MUTTS* Clubs from California to Kentucky. If you think about it, MUTTS* Clubs are perfect microcosms of the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum in action. Club members grow in awareness of themselves and others, discover their own feelings and talents, develop empathy for pets and people, learn what it means to respect others and work toward a shared goal, and refine their decision-making skills and sense of responsibility.

* What’s MUTTS? MUTTS is an acronym for Motivated Understanding Thoughtful Teenage Students. It was coined by a group of middle school students in Arkansas who founded the first MUTTS Club. The name became so popular that Mutt-i-grees students now use it across the country. Members of the original MUTTS Club continued to work for shelter pets throughout high school, an experience they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Below is a sampling of their accomplishments, state by state.

Sun Valley, Calif.: Myleen Acevedo, 7, a 2nd grader in the Fenton Charter Leadership Academy, and Julissa Ortez, 10, a 5th grader in the Fenton STEM Academy, joined members of our Mutt-i-grees Outreach Team to talk about their Mutt-i-grees classroom experience on Hallmark Channel’s ““Home & Family” show. Also on camera was Jeter, the Fenton school dog and the first member of our canine classroom corps. Toni Frear, the guidance counselor at the Fenton schools, adopted Jeter from Animal League America in 2010.

Norwalk, Conn.: Jennifer Costa, 13, Eve (Stevie) Guevara, 13
, and Victoria McCaffrey, 14, were leaders of the MUTTS Club at the Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk, Conn. They collaborated on awareness and adoption events, meeting Saturday mornings to introduce the Curriculum to younger children visiting the museum. They also worked with a variety of canines, many from the Pet Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in Norwalk. All three ambassadors were impressed with how enthusiastically their families, friends, and peers welcomed the program. In addition, Victoria gave a Mutt-i-grees PowerPoint presentation to her computer class at school.

Ashland, Ky.: McKinney (Mac) Meek, age 15, a 9th grader at Paul Blazer High School, has been active in the Mutt-i-grees Movement for several years. In his first year as president of the Mutt-i-grees/AARF Teen Council, Mac led his club in a wide range of fundraisers and community events, many of which benefitted the local no-kill shelter. When North Shore Animal League America’s Tour For Life® visited Ashland for the third consecutive year, Mac and his team were ready with a fundraiser, information tables, and a best-dressed pet contest. They also lent a hand with adoptions.

Wayne, N.J.: Tabitha Comear (far left), 13, an 8th grader at the Schuyler-Colfax Middle School, focused on raising awareness about animal cruelty. For two weeks in April — which is Animal Cruelty Awareness Month — Tabitha led the MUTTS Club in creating posters and writing morning announcements about animal cruelty. They also wrote and read bios of pets at the school’s partner, the Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter. As a fundraiser, they created shopping lists for students and staff to encourage donations. The result was more than five boxes of supplies and several hundred dollars in cash donations.

New York, N.Y.: Jimmy Carpio Castro, 12, and Juthi Roy, 13, are 8th graders Middle School 88 in Brooklyn. A highlight for this dynamic duo was an invitation to join city dignitaries when the New York City School System and Animal League America announced their collaborative school dog program. Jimmy and Juthi attended a special reception, along with their Mutt-i-grees advisers and their school dog, Petey, who was adopted from Animal League America by Assistant Principal Irene Parker. During the ceremony, Jimmy and Juthi spoke about the value of having a dog as part of the student body and gave interviews to the media.

At the Stephen Gaynor School in Manhattan, eighth-graders Mateo Levin and Lili Kolton-Shaffer, both 13, dedicated their efforts to educating their peers about adoption and no-kill shelters. They also conducted a successful fundraiser, raising more than $500 for their MUTTS/YAP Club. Both ambassadors said the opportunity increased their self-confidence and made them more effective advocates for Mutt-i-grees and other animals.

Bixby, Oklahoma: Ragan Fletcher, 17, an 11th grader at Bixby Central Intermediate School, spent her third year as an ambassador and MUTTS Club president developing a long list of effective projects. Realizing that many students are curious about careers that help animals, Ragan invited a veterinarian to visit the school and make a presentation about pet care and her work in veterinary medicine. Club members also raised more than $2,000 in supplies for the Tulsa Humane Society, where they volunteer. During the holidays, they marched with shelter dogs in the city’s Christmas parade, and later partnered with shelter volunteers to bring dogs to a fourth grade classroom for Read Across America. Students read Beth Stern’s “Yoda Gets a Buddy,” which generated conversation about rescue, adoption, and the no-kill movement.

Noble, Oklahoma: Sisters Kennedy and Savannah Fritzen attend the Curtis Inge Middle School. Both are members of the school’s MUTTS Club/Animal Poetry Club, which encourages its 30 members to express their feelings about pets and other animals through poetry. As ambassadors, Kennedy, 14, and Savannah, 12, organized activities for Kitten Bowl, working with two partner shelters, Hands Helping Paws, Inc., and the Norman Animal Welfare Center, both in nearby Norman. In addition, the sisters led club members in the MUTTS Club Shelter Buddies Reading program and staffed an info table at a local Animal Welfare Expo.

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