The Talk About It! campaign is pleased to welcome as a guest blogger Molly Cox, Director of UTSA College of Public Policy Center for Policy Studies & Co-Director of the LEARN from each other AND SERVE San Antonio: No Kill Project.
I’m a dog lover. There. I said it. In fact, so is Renee. It’s what drew us to this project, which really just started out as an idea on paper. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In May of 2010, I sat down with Dr. Renee Nank of the Public Administration Department at the University of Texas at San Antonio to discuss the need for education and understanding around the City of San Antonio’s No Kill Initiative. We were convinced that while spaying and neutering, fostering and adopting, as well as responsible pet ownership are key elements to getting San Antonio to its goal, unless you educate the community and get their “buy-in,” it is impossible to make a system change, which is what this campaign desperately needed.
In connection with the National Learn and Serve Challenge, we developed a plan to hire nine UTSA graduate students to connect with six local high schools to participate in service-learning projects that would have students developing, implementing, and evaluating projects that were specific to their individual communities. We asked students to address the following issues: educate your schools, educate your communities, and hold a spay/neuter event. That was the plan. Simple. Straight forward. It’s the whole, “Be the change you wish to see in this world” mentality (you can thank Ghandi for that).
Now, one year later, we had eight graduate students work with eight local high schools, and the change they created was more than we could ever have imagined. Through generous funding from the Animal No Kill Fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation and the Alvarez Graduate Research Excellence Fund from UTSA, this $100,000 project asked students from East Central, Edison, Harlandale, Highlands, Lanier, Memorial, Roosevelt, Southwest High School to become change agents for San Antonio.
While I can bore you with statistics, and I will, I also think its imperative you hear what the students got out of this project.
- “With every second spent in this amazing project, I’ve grown to have sympathy for those strays in the streets. I’ve not only matured from this, but have learned so much more about responsible pet ownership…and this is only the beginning,” Amanda Velasquez, Lanier High School.
- “Having the opportunity to start a project at Memorial High School and be able to make an impact on how our very own students and their families treat their pets made us realize how much of a difference we can make at such a young age,” Deyanira Del Villar, Memorial High School.
- “As I go to college this fall, this project gave me the opportunity to learn the necessary skills: including time management, team work, public speaking, communications. And I now have the self-confidence to utilize these skills for my future success,” Dulce Ocura, Memorial High School.
- “As a class, we learned to put aside our differences and work together as a team to accomplish a goal,” Jasmin Galarza, East Central High School.
- “The LEARN AND SERVE Project made me love and care for my dog each day that goes by,” Mark Burciaga, Lanier High School.
- “Animal issues are people issues,” Voices for Animals Student Club at Highlands High School.
Overall, as of May 20, 2011, the day of our Final Reflection Luncheon, these students had knocked on more than 7,000 doors, spayed/neutered more than 700 pets, and partnered with nearly 20 organizations to make it all happen. Plus, there are still five more spay/neuter clinics to go.
A very special thank you to the following organizations that helped make this project a success. We believed from the get-go that this would take a community, and it was a community of animal lovers that made it possible.
- San Antonio Area Foundation No Kill Fund
- Alvarez Graduate Research Excellence Fund
- Alamo City Bully Breeds United
- Animal Care Services
- Animal Defense League
- City of San Antonio
- D and D K-9 Concepts
- Helotes Humane Society
- Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital
- Pet Medical Center
- Rackspace Hosting
- San Antonio Feral Cat Coalition
- San Antonio Humane Society
- Sarah Shaw Photography
- Sea World San Antonio
- Silver and Black Give Back
- Talk About It!
What is so moving to me is that this became an opportunity for students to learn about the No Kill Initiative, but more than that, these students heard that San Antonio needed their help and rose to the challenge. While Renee and I were able to put an idea on paper and the San Antonio Area Foundation and Carlos and Malu Alvarez were able to fund it, it was the UTSA graduate students and the students from these high schools that gave this project energy and life.
Director of UTSA College of Public Policy Center for Policy Studies