Garber High students win $25K grant to purchase therapy dogs for school district

They did it.

The students of Garber High School celebrated at an assembly on the morning of Nov. 4, where it was announced that their proposal to install therapy dogs in each of the four schools in the Essexville-Hampton Public Schools district had won a $25,000 grant from the State Farm Neighborhood Assist program.

Students enrolled in the FIRST Robotics program at Garber High, making up FRC Team 5216, or The E-Ville Empire, came up with the idea for the therapy dogs, becoming one of 40 groups to receive the State Farm grants. There were 200 applications in total.

“Our kids could have chosen this grant to be about anything. They could have asked for lab equipment, parts for the robots, tools they need. But they chose the grant to be about helping someone else,” says Ethan Shannon, a chemistry and computer science teacher at Garber High. Shannon and Lori Flippin are lead mentors for the FIRST Robotics program there.

“It really shows the moral character of the kids in this group.”

The students had already raised $5,000 through previous fundraising efforts to purchase Chip the Sheltie, a therapy dog for Verellen Elementary School. With the $25,000 grant, the students will be able to provide therapy dogs for the rest of the school district.

“Since we started fundraising for the first therapy dog, we weren’t fully expecting more dogs than Chip. Then we got deeper into the process and we saw that it could become a reality,” says Emma Miller, a junior at Garber High and one of the students responsible for winning the grant.

Shannon cautions that finding a breeder and trainer for future therapy dogs will take 18 months to two years to complete the process.

And even though many of the students responsible for securing the grant will have already graduated by the time the therapy dogs are ready, that doesn’t seem to phase members of the winning team.

“I think it’s an amazing thing. There’s not many students that can leave a lasting impact on their school like we have,” says Adeline Taber, also a junior at Garber High that helped win the grant.

“I’m extremely grateful for it.”

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