A campaign against illegal dog fighting is being waged by 5th graders

The public’s awareness of animal abuse got a big boost in 2009 when Michael Vick joined the Philadelphia Eagles and began speaking out against dog fighting.

Carla Russell’s fifth grade class at A.B. Day School that sits in East Germantown (though some consider this part Mt. Airy) is working outside of the public spotlight hoping to send the same message.


Service learning in action

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With help from a the Chestnut Hill-based Need in Deed program, Russell and her students are working on a service learning project that will culminate in creating a public service meesage video and pet supply collection event next month.

Yesterday, Russell and five of her 27 students that were involved in the project were recognized for their on-going project with 26 other classes that were part of this year’s Need in Deed service learning program. The event was held at WHYY’s Dorrance H. Hamilton Public Media Commons.

For Russell’s class the project began at the start of the school year when the students were asked to think about what kind of problem they wanted to help tackle. The students ultimately decided on a campaign against illegal dog fighting.

To help them understand the issue better, Need in Deed community partner Clair Tillman, who is active with PAWS, spoke to Russell’s class several times about the consequences of organized dog fighting rings. The students were given a chance to meet and play with dogs during a recent visit to Anthropologie’s Naval Yard facility where employees are allowed to bring their dogs to work.

Russell says the experiences changed her students’ views dramatically over the year. “A lot of students had no idea. They really didn’t even like animals. They even mentioned that. But after (we had) animals in the classroom, they got to hold the animals, they got to pet the animals, that changed their mind about thinking about animals,” said Russell.


More than community service

Need in Deed’s Executive Director Barbara Dundon says the program offers an enhanced experience to what the community service programs already offered at many public and private schools.

“We really pride ourselves on the fact that our projects are not just service. There is a lot of academic rigor that goes into the front end of the year. For us learning is more important than the service, although service is what is satisfying to the students,” Dundon said.

Students from nearly 14 other Philadelphia schools also were recognized for their projects. The topics ranged from drug abuse, self-mutilation, to urban blight.

The event was emceed by Philadelphia spoken word artist Ursula Rucker and entertainment was provided by the percussion band Spoken Hand.


The Need in Deed/NPR connection

Incidentally, in 2005 Need in Deed paired up with NPR’s StoryCorps project that resulted in this story on gun violence that aired nationally on Morning Edition. The radio producers worked closely with the students preparing them for the interviews.


Classes recognized this year at the 2011 Shout Out

Carla Russell A.B. Day Elementary School 5th grade Animal abuse Andrea Caison A.B. Day Elementary School 7th grade Drug violence Lauren Beal AMY Northwest Middle School 7th grade Disease Jacqueline Burke Conwell Middle School 6th grade Homelessness Bianca Bonnano Fell Elementary School 3rd grade Violence Gretchen Matteo Fell Elementary School 3rd grade Littering Katrina Culley & Lis Pennington Franklin Academics Plus 5th grade Violence prevention Louise Sample Grover Washington Jr. Middle School 5th grade Animal abuse Shannon Blair & Amy Gottesman Grover Washington Jr. Middle School 6th grade Cyber bullying Kelly Ann Coughlin Harding Middle School 8th grade Abuse Kathleen Wainwright Heston Academics Plus 6th grade Violence Pam Taylor Anderson Hill Freedman Middle School 6th grade Bullying Del Gore Hill Freedman Middle School 7th grade Self-injury Christine Kolenut Jay Cooke Elementary School 7th grade Urban blight Candice Ottaviani Jay Cooke Elementary School 7th grade Animal abuse Leslie Greenberg Jay Cooke Elementary School 7th & 8th grades Human Trafficking Steffanie Merz Logan Elementary School 3rd grade Bullying Danielle Tansits Logan Elementary School 4th grade Violence Lisa Hantman Mc Call Elementary School 3rd grade Trees Joanna Bottaro Mc Call Elementary School 5th grade Cyberbullying Michelle Rivera Mc Call Elementary School 6th grade Urban blight Steve Saba Mc Call Elementary School 6th grade Animal abuse Heather Zajdel Philadelphia Learning Academy 7th & 8th grades STDs/HIV Kelly Ford & Nicole LePore Taylor Elementary School 3rd grade Animal abuse Matha Kutteh Widener Memorial School 8th grade Nutrition/hunger

Need in Deed is located at 8616 Germantown Avenue in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia.

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