Mid-Coast School Notebook: April 6

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Mt. Ararat High School goes to the (therapy) dogs

Students and staff at Mt. Ararat High School were able to address their stress last month with the help of local therapy dogs, following several unsettling experiences at the school.

Three dogs –Banjo, Friskie and Dozer – were welcome ambassadors March 15, and four other dogs provided respite March 20, when they greeted students. 

“As you are aware, we have had a stressful few weeks at school,” said Bree Candland, a social studies teacher and class advisor, in a prepared release. “I approached our principal to ask for permission, and she has allowed me to organize visits with therapy dogs … registered with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, and Mary Boutin from Therapy Dogs Inc.”

One student wrote, “Leading up to the visits, our school community was negatively impacted by recent events. On Wednesday, March 9, we learned of a planned threat towards our school, which resulted in an arrest. The next day, we experienced a long shelter in place order while our administration investigated another potential safety issue. Although the situation did not ultimately pose a threat, many of us were scared.”

When it was announced that therapy dogs would be visiting the school “We were truly overjoyed,” the student said via email. “People’s faces lit up and we erupted in applause. Just the announcement of the therapy dog visits brought an instant feeling of relief to a room full of students who had been experiencing anxiety that we should not have to face.”

As students transitioned between classes March 15, “three sweet therapy dogs greeted us in the front lobby,” the student related. “Their presence created an instant feeling of comfort for us and it was so nice to leave some of the stress of recent events behind. On March 20, “… we were welcomed by four more awesome therapy dogs. It brought back those feelings of comfort and relief throughout the halls. (W)e had gentle therapy dogs to talk about, and those conversations helped us start to put the stress of recent weeks behind us. The therapy dogs were able to come in and help create a more positive environment. We’d love to have them back to visit and make it a regular occurence!”

State senator hosts local students in Augusta

Several students from Mt. Ararat Middle School in Topsham visited the Maine Senate in Augusta on March 27, when they were hosted by Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic.

“I have been so pleased to host a number of students recently …,” said Vitelli. “It is great to have young visitors interested in government and public service.”

Vitelli was visited by Madison Macfawn, Chase Rioux and Katherine Hawkes of Mt. Ararat Middle School, as well as Lily Collier of Mt. Ararat High School.

Honorary pages help deliver messages, distribute documents within the Senate chamber, interact with the senators and take part in a real-world, interactive legislative learning experience. 

State Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, with students from Mt. Ararat. From left are Madison Macfawn, Chase Rioux, Katherine Hawkes and Lily Collier.

Mt. Ararat High School students Fiona Huang and Bre Holtet, at right, get some much-needed stress relief March 20, when Dozer and owner, Harley Morgan, middle, visited the high school. 

With Sydney the yellow Lab during a stress-buster visit by therapy dogs at Mt. Ararat High School last month are Nolan Blessington, Austin Berry, Trey Saucier, William Hagan and Joe Ciembroniewicz.