Last Tuesday, while the rest of the country raced to the polls to cast their ballots for America’s next president, animals at the Atlanta Humane Society raced around their pens enjoying hundreds of donations provided by students at Sarah Smith Elementary School’s intermediate campus.
The donations were one component of a service learning project the students organized and participated in as part of Red Ribbon Week, the drug and violence prevention awareness campaign observed annually in the United States. School Guidance Counselor LaTonia McDaniels came up with the school’s theme, “These Paws Don’t Touch Drugs,” and ordered red t-shirts, red ribbons and six-hundred lollipops with the theme printed on them.
She guided the students throughout the project, helping them determine what to donate to the animal shelter, and leading discussions about homeless pets.
McDaniels began the discussion about homeless animals by having the students watch Marley and Me: the Puppy Years, and after the watching the movie, the students’ Humane Society donations increased dramatically.
“Many of our students have pets that they love very deeply, and discussing the fate of animals that don’t have loving homes had a big impact on the students,” she said.
Based on what they saw on the shelter’s website, the students collected hundreds of plastic bags, shampoo, toilet tissue, paper towel rolls, bleach and even crates to help with the care and upkeep of the animals in need.
McDaniels delivered the students’ collections to the Humane Society on November 6, Election Day. She recalled the experience as very moving.
“The employees did not know I was coming. And as I was driving around with a truck filled with grocery bags, empty paper towel rolls and old newspapers, I began to feel strange—like they’re going to think I’m crazy. They’re going to wonder why I’m bringing them all of our junk.”
But when the Humane Society staff saw all of the donations, McDaniels said they were overjoyed. And when she saw how much the students’ “junk” meant to the animals as they waited for their ‘forever homes,’ everything came together for her.
“The puppies used the empty paper towel rolls as toys, and they were having sooo much fun—with paper towel rolls! It put a big smile on everyone’s face. It was eye opening and very heartwarming,” she said.
Mona Parker’s fifth-grade class won a pizza party for collecting the most Atlanta Humane Society donations. The class collected so many items, McDaniels will have to return to the shelter to deliver the remaining items.
As an International Baccalaureate school, Sarah Smith strongly emphasizes the importance of contributing to the community and helping others. As a result, Smith students engage in numerous service projects every year, such as donating shoes to their sister school in Haiti, designing pillow cases and collecting DVDs for patients at the Shriners Hospitals for Children and hosting multiple canned food drives throughout the year.