Southeastern Guide Dogs Ambassador Spirit 3J09, who was raised by the Hysmith Family in the Bradenton Puppy Raisers Group was recently recognized by the Manatee County, Florida School District.
Spirit was named Youth Vounteer of the Year at Williams Elementary for her work in the 1st grade reading dog program and then at a special luncheon for each school's volunteers of the year, she was given the Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Spirit Award. This is the first time that Manatee County Schools has given an award to an animal for their contributions to students in the classroom.
Each week Spirit listens to an entire class of 1st grade students who meet with her and her handler, Kathy Hysmith in groups of two or three. The students read a story to Spirit from a library book or one of their reading books. The emerging readers gain confidence in their reading ability, learn how to share a book within a group, learn respect of others within the group, develop a love of learning, and also learn proper ways to behave around a service dog. The students also gain awareness about the many ways a dog can help those with special needs or challenges, assist law enforcement, military, fire departments, etc...and the students have fun!