Pawsitive Impact's latest program is called ALPHA. The ALPHA program (Adolescent Learning Powered by Humane Advocacy) is a mutually beneficial program for at-risk teens and hard-to-adopt shelter dogs. This program uses humane education to improve the social-emotional health of at-risk youth by developing skills to become resilient, compassionate, and responsible members of the community through training shelter dogs to become more adoptable. Throughout our therapeutic program, at-risk youth and shelter dogs connect and together learn patience, trust, empathy, and perseverance that helps them to be successful in life.
The ALPHA program works with teens in local juvenile detention centers and other youth outreach centers. This is a six week program that meets three days per week. Our curriculum combines humane education with character development. Communication skills are a large part of our program, both with dogs and other humans. The youth are taught to understand dog behavior and body language. This understanding can then be related to understanding themselves better, as well as others. The youth are partnered up throughout the training which also encourages them to learn the skills needed to collaborate and cooperate in order to successfully train their dogs. Responsibility and leadership are other areas of focus. Once participants have completed our program, they are allowed to return to following sessions as mentors or peer leaders. Throughout our program, participants go on field trips and listen to guest speakers that expose them to animal-related careers that they may be interested in, such as shelter workers, veterinarians, vet techs, and dog groomers. Our hope is that they will be exposed to a job that they could pursue and learn the skills necessary to become productive members of society.
The ultimate goal of our organization is to empower at-risk youth and help them to feel successful. Both of our programs encourage participants to set goals for both themselves and their dogs. Some are short term goals, such as teaching the dog to do a specific task, and others are long term goals like getting the dog adopted or finding a potential career path for themselves when they become adults. Reaching those goals may not always be easy, but they develop patience, perseverance and a sense of self worth along the way.
The Reading Ambassador Dog (RAD) Program was first launched in 2009. RAD, in cooperation with local elementary and middle schools and after-school programs, employs animal-assisted therapy to improve the reading and comprehension skills of struggling students. Under the current program structure, participants practice reading aloud to certified therapy dogs for 15 minutes, two to three times per week, for cycles of 10 to 25 weeks per year. Learning occurs in a very safe, non-threatening environment. Past results indicate a direct correlation between increased confidence and ability and the fact that the dogs don’t judge the children but just listen.
Many of the children who participate live in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and are exposed to dog fighting, neglect and animal abuse. In an effort to raise more awareness around the value animals play in their lives, we incorporate an education component focused on humane treatment, safe handling and best care practices.
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