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By Miguel Gonzalez
Editor & Founder
(Apple Valley)–Shaping young people into productive and positive adults can sometimes be a challenge. But many educators will tell you that teaching a lesson to kids is always easier when you involve animals.
Friday night, the Town of Apple Valley’s Municipal Shelter hosted 50 Girl Scouts from the High Desert at an overnight educational program called a “Night at the Shelter” designed to raise awareness and promote responsible pet ownership.
Accompanied by troop leaders and volunteer parents, the 50 young ladies, ranging from ages 6 to 17, took a tour of the recently completed and very modern shelter. They also had a chance to view dogs, cats, parrots, tarantulas and even iguanas, all residents at the shelter and available for adoption to a loving home.
“This program is really cool because I love animals,” 10 year-old scout Kayla Engeron said. “Kids should know more about animals because it teaches you to treat them better and grow up to be a good person,” Engeron said.
Animal Services Manager Gina Schwin-Whiteside explained that the shelter had to turn away people who wanted to join the program at the last minute. “The long term effect of this program is that it reduces the number of animals that end-up in the shelter. It also ensures that when these kids grow-up and they adopt an animal, they will provide loving homes,” Schwin-Whiteside said.
Troop 317 Leader Charlene Engeron added that the success of the test program will more likely mean there will be more “Nights at the Shelter.” “The demand for activities like these is big in the area, because of the appeal for animal interaction activities,” said the Scout Leader, who also works for the Economic Development Department of Apple Valley.
Among the wide array of activities designed to cultivate the young minds of these scouts, the direct interaction with some of the dogs and cats was most captivating. Ever so gently, the girls petted, in some instances animals twice their size, with complete absence of fear or intimidation.
Schwin-Whiteside said the overnighters will also be available to school and church groups, youth organizations, other Girl Scout troops, Boy Scout packs and groups interested in animal-related learning opportunities. If successful, the program can be marketed nation-wide.
In this particular instance, each Girl Scout earned a “Try-it” or “Badge” or “Interest Project Award” depending on their age level, not just a fun patch, organizers said.
Parent Brianna Collins, who brought her 10 year-old daughter Johanna, was very pleased with the richness of the experience. “This makes them consider the world around them. To take care of something makes them become more responsible and makes them take less things for granted.”
The message was not lost on 11 year-old Sienna Gomez, who on Friday nigh,t learned the correct way to greet and feed a dog. “When I go home I am going to teach my friends to treat animals with love and care. I learned that I need to clean after animals to stop them from getting sick or ending in a shelter.”
To learn more about this program, donate or give a pet a loving home, please contact the Apple Valley Municipal Shelter at (760) 240-7000 Ext. 7555.