On February 23, 2012, Tails of Hope Foundation launched its Youth Ambassador Program (YAP™) for Working Dogs at the Alfred G. Waters Middle School in Middletown, DE, during Future Farmers of America (FFA) Week. The program is an outgrowth of the 9/11/11 tribute events, and David Kontny of the Department of Homeland Security will be in attendance. Between 600 and 900 students in grades 6-8 were in attendance from three schools. The program was presented in three assemblies with K9 demonstrations and presentations on volunteer and career opportunities, followed by sessions at the FFA meeting.
The full-day program was led by YAP’s Youth Ambassador Amanda Reck, who is a recent graduate of Johns Hopkins and Oxford University. There were 16 working dog demo teams, including three each from search-and-rescue (SAR), FEMA, and the Army, and six from the Delaware State Police. Dr. Cynthia M. Otto, DVM, founder of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania also participated, along with Army SSG. Matthew D. Holley and his dog, Jofa, who were honored at Finding One Another’s 9/11 Recognition Ceremony for All Working Dogs on 9/11/11.
Other participants included Mari-Beth O’Neill, Assistant Vice President, Special Services for the American Kennel Club, and Molly Karlin of the Teen YAP Advisory Board, a high school and pre-vet student who already helps with veterinary surgical procedures. Seth Pratt, a college student who is National Vice President of Future Farmers of America, also attended.
The FFA students arrived at 6:30 a.m. to help with set-up and to serve as Ambassador Escorts for YAP participants. The program began at 7:30 a.m. with a special thank-you presentation by FEMA and Search-and-Rescue K9 teams to the 120 students who wrote thank-you cards to the K9 teams at the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks.
The school’s PTA hosted a welcome breakfast, and the school catered a lunch for the visitors with the principal and vice principal. Students who earned extra credit were selected by lottery to spend special time with the K9 teams at lunch and during on-site training during breaks.
This full day of activities was a memorable way to inaugurate this special program for young people to learn about the exceptional field of working dogs.
YAP is a Tails of Hope Foundation program.