Saint Ursula Academy has a new school community member who is spreading peace and joy everywhere he goes. Angelo is SUA’s new resident therapy dog. Named after St. Angela Merici, foundress of St. Ursula’s order of Sisters, Angelo will spend most of his time comforting and assisting students in the counseling office and Educational Services department.
Why was it important for Saint Ursula to support students this way? It is no secret that most teenagers experience some levels of stress and anxiety during their high school years. These characteristics can manifest themselves in many different ways; at different times of the day; and at different times of the school year.
“For the past several years, we have seen the value of therapy dogs comforting our students during exam weeks,” said Saint Ursula Academy Principal Dr. Mari Thomas. “It is amazing to see the angst melt away when they can hug or pet an animal. Now, after years of longing and through a generous donation, we are able to move forward with this positive initiative.”
Saint Ursula was careful in choosing the right therapy dog for our community. Not only did Angelo complete detailed training with Ultimate Canine, but he is hypo-allergenic, ensuring all students and staff can enjoy his company.
The leaders at Saint Ursula know that exam days are not the only days when a therapy dog can be healing, helpful and calming. Some benefits of spending time with a therapy dog for all of the students include:
· Lifting spirits and lessening depression.
· Lowering feelings of isolation and alienation.
· Encouraging communication.
· Providing comfort.
· Increasing socialization.
· Lessening boredom.
· Reducing anxiety.
· Helping with speech and emotional disorders.
Angelo is well cared for all year long. He lives full-time with SUA teacher and Educational Services Program Co-Director Arielle Balz, who volunteered to be the dog’s primary caregiver. In addition to Ms. Balz as the primary handler, SUA has three trained secondary handlers in the school: Ms. Long, Ms. Rose, and Ms. Woodall.
Angelo is just one source of support for Saint Ursula students. Saint Ursula Academy, in an effort to educate and develop the whole person, prioritizes multiple avenues of social-emotional support for students all year as a complement to the exceptional academic programs.
Moving around campus, our new resident will be guided by one of the certified handlers and always on a leash.