Photo: Flickr Creative Commons
The Animal League of Green Valley unleashed their new Youth Intern Program and 49 teens are enthusiastically onboard.
Petra Gross, the program’s coordinator, says the Youth Intern Program (Y.I.P.) runs May 31 through July 24, coinciding with summer break for the kids and the regular volunteers’ vacations. Because Y.I.P. is so popular, when the school year begins, the Animal League is considering bringing the teens back on weekends and school vacations.
The program kicked off with orientation and training and now the teens are spending four hours, at least one day a week, cleaning dog runs and/or cat enclosures, walking dogs, and providing socialization for the animals. Gross is confident the experience will teach the kids the importance of spaying/neutering and the commitment required to take care of pets at home. She also hopes the program will provide a reality-check for the sheer numbers of homeless cats and dogs; the shelter is always full.
Although the requirement is four hours per week, many teens are eager to invest more time. In fact, 15-year-old Kiana Verdugo is working two shifts per week. “It’s really fun and I’m learning a lot,” she says. “The (adult) volunteers are nice and helpful. And I love animals, so it’s the best of both worlds.”
“I like all animals,” says 15-year-old Amakye Heikkila, whose responsibilities include cleaning the cat areas and playing with the felines. “You can tell they enjoy it,” she says, describing how 1-year-old tabby cat Webb likes to sit on her shoulder.
Although some of the adult volunteers worried about the maturity level of the teens, they now are impressed with their responsible nature and work ethic. “It is going excellent,” Gross says. “I am so impressed with the quality of the teenagers here. They are outstanding.” Adult volunteer Carol Wright says, “They are great, so polite.” “My faith in teenagers is renewed,” volunteer Judy Hopkins adds.
As part of the application process, TALGV required prospective teen volunteers to complete a questionnaire. Some of the questions were:
•Are you a person who gets up early and likes to be at places on time?
•Could you cheerfully scoop poop?
•Do you like learning from mature, experienced people?
•Can you live without personal electronic devices for four hours?
So far, the teens have complied and appear to be enjoying their time at the shelter.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Gross said.