(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The St. Joseph School District is getting a helping hand from two new staff members, but these two new volunteers aren't your typical teachers.
Many consider four-legged companions to be some of the best friendships they'll ever have, but for these two pups, they're not just friendly, they're therapeutic.
"I'm Mo's mom. In the morning, we greet the bus and so it’s 'hi Mo,’ not ‘hi Mrs. Dillon,’” Julie Dillon, Behavior Interventionist at Coleman Elementary said.
Mo and Hope, two new therapy dogs to the St. Joseph School District made possible in part by three St. Joseph Rotary Clubs.
"In several schools, we've trained a lot of people throughout the system on the importance of trauma and how we can help these children that are faced with this due to their home life and other circumstances before they ever come to school,” Rotary District Governor Donald Gladhart said.
According to data from the National Survey of Children's Health, nearly 35 millions kids have experienced at least one type of serious childhood trauma.
The Rotary Clubs grants go toward programs to focus on trauma and also B.A.R.K. or Behavior Animals Rescuing Kids therapy dogs, the new program at Mark Twain and Coleman Elementary.
"We recognize that our kids come to school with a lot of baggage on their backs and that we have to meet their needs in new and improved ways. We have to do our best as a school district and this is one of the interventions that has made a huge difference,” Jean West, St. Joseph School District Social Worker and Certified Trauma Trainer said.
District officials are already seeing a change in demeanor in the students after just a few short months of working with the loveable pets.
"To have her with me is just another tool to help me maybe deescalate a student having a hard time with anger or another student suffering from some kind of trauma,” Dillon said.
"We know how people respond to pets and these dogs are specially trained to help kids to be able to regulate their emotions," West said.
The funding for the dogs is just a part of a nearly $43,000 grant the Rotary Clubs are giving the district for its trauma-related program.