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Kennedy Gets Therapy Dogs to Support Students

Kennedy Community School has two new staff members, Watson and Willow, and they are the friendliest staff members there. Watson and Willow are therapy dogs from You’re Not Alone, a local non-profit organization that trains canines to work with children for mental and social emotional-support.

“We had a therapy dog here pre-COVID and saw how amazing the impact was,” says Anna Willhite, principal at Kennedy Community School.

So, when the opportunity presented itself to have a therapy dog in school, Willhite raised her hand.

“The goal is to provide those mental health supports that they need,” describes Willhite.

Third grade students will have the chance to work with Watson. The elementary counselor along with Watson’s handler (who is a prior Kennedy parent) go into the classroom and from there students can self-select or a counselor may choose a student to work directly with Watson.

Willow will be working with eighth grade students to help with anxiety, mental health and other social-emotional needs.

One of the aspects that they teach is about invisible diseases. The things that you can’t physically see that a person may suffer from or deal with daily.

“Willow has an invisible disease - hip dysplasia,” explains Willhite. “We all walk around with these invisible things. So, talking about these things that not everyone knows about – how do we interact with each other? How are we supportive of each other?”

Eventually, Kennedy will create puppy passes for those two grades, so students can get the additional supports they need while meeting with a school counselor.

“It just creates that safety,” shares Willhite. “There’s something about petting an animal that can just provide some calm.”