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A spring break of barks

Posted: May 5, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 5, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Canyon High School students Winona McCollum and Kristen Rudolph volunteered at the Brittany Foundation no-kill dog rescue in Agua Dulce as part of the school’s Career Visions Program Workforce Prep.

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Students at Canyon Country High School experienced a very different kind of spring break while volunteering at The Brittany Foundation, a no-kill dog rescue in Agua Dulce.

From April 2-5, the teenagers cleaned kennels, groomed and walked dogs, pulled weeds, cleared debris and helped with repairs at the rescue’s main property.

 The real-world experience is a crucial part of the Career Visions WorkForce Prep program, which is designed to prepare students for life and work after graduation.

“Being able to go out to the foundation just made my day,” said Winona McCollum, 17, of Canyon Country. “I learned that I really enjoy yard work.”

While volunteering, McCollum made a four-legged friend named Duckie, a fluffy black Pomeranian rescued from a Los Angeles County shelter.

“I like Duckie. There was just something about him that clicked with me,” McCollum said.

Having students make a connection with homeless pets was the goal of Ulla Rincon, a career transitions adviser at Canyon High. Rincon volunteers at The Brittany Foundation on a weekly basis.

“I knew how much work there was to be done at the sanctuary. I also feel it’s important to educate the next generation about animal welfare, to get them on board and have them become spokespeople for the cause,” Rincon said.

She picked up the five participants each morning, with the day starting at 9:30 a.m. and ending at 1:30 p.m. Rincon also provided food for short lunch breaks.

Senior Jorge Navarro, 18, of Canyon Country, was assigned to work with property manager Joe Anderson, sanding doors, putting up drywall and laying down hardwood flooring.

“I like working on houses. It was just fun,” Jorge said.

As part of the WorkForce Prep program, Navarro will continue working at The Brittany Foundation on weekends throughout May, his minimum-wage salary paid by the Hart district.

In between his construction duties, Navarro is sure to visit with his new buddy Champ, a 10-year-old black-and-white pit bull that resides at the foundation. Champ, who bears some scars from possibly being used as a bait dog in a fighting ring, was rescued an hour before he was set to be euthanized at a shelter.

“I love pit bulls, so Champ caught my eye,” Navarro said. “He just licked me and played with me. All the dogs there are friendly. All they want is love. It was nice to help them.”

Some of the students shed a tear on their last day of volunteering, according to Rincon.

“We all had a fantastic time, and I guarantee you they told everybody they knew about their experience,” Rincon said. “I hope to be able to repeat this with another group of students in the near future.”

 If so, Brittany Foundation founder Nancy Anderson will welcome a new group with open arms.

 “These kids were so willing to work at any project we asked them to do. I was so encouraged to see young people, who could have easily surfed the mall on spring break, choose to spend their time volunteering at a charity. It was admirable,” she said.

The time the students spent bonding with dogs was particularly powerful, Anderson noted.

“It intensifies someone’s devotion to the cause and gets the word out. That’s what we hope for in the younger generation. We need to change how animals are treated and respected. These young kids will help to change to the course of animal history,” she said.

McCollum hopes to volunteer at The Brittany Foundation again soon.

Of her experience, the senior said, “It was the best spring break I ever had.”

For more information about The Brittany Foundation, visit www.brittanyfoundationonline.org. The foundation is in need of construction labor and materials. If you can help, please contact Nancy Anderson at 661-713-5240 or brittany_dogs@yahoo.com.

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