Spotlight: Russell Jones Education Center

– Welcome to this edition of “Spotlight.” We are at the Russell
Jones Education Center with Principal Dr. Tara Kalis. Tara, students and staff here have a new friend who is helping with the
therapeutic process. Can you tell us more
about this new friend? – So, we have a friend that we had join us earlier this year. Actually, they came at the end of last year, and
they’ve been with us ever since. They help our kids
when they are dysregulated; he helps them calm down
and kind of get a grip back on reality. He comes every day and works hard throughout the entire day. – Well, let’s meet this new friend and see how he’s helping students with their academic and emotional needs as we spotlight the Russell
Jones Education Center. (soft music) – This is Mocha. Mocha is our therapy dog. He is through an organization
called Paws 4 Autism. That organization has
trained him specifically to be in an environment such as ours to help deliver therapy for kiddos who may feel overwhelmed
or anxious in some way. – Some of my students use Mocha to increase their cognitive ability. So, they’ll read to Mocha
or work on math facts. Some of my students like
to do physical activity with Mocha, so they take him for walks; they take him for little
runs; but they’re able to get all that interaction with him and then some of my students
use him to build social skills. – When I get overwhelmed,
Mocha can help me . . . – Go.
– So, I’m not stressed. – Students are definitely drawn to him. They enjoy his quiet calmness. Reading to him, the texture
and the feel of his fur is very comforting to the students. They enjoy that sort of thing. They also enjoy the responsibility
that comes with a dog. Different students are
responsible for different things with Mocha. We have a
student who’s responsible for filling his water bottle every day. We have classes that are responsible for taking him on walks at
certain periods of the day. So, that responsibility piece is also there of teaching them how to
care for an animal as well. – My students know that he’s
part of their coping tools. So, they’re able to request him when they start to sense
that they’re stressed or start to sense that they’re frustrated; they’ll ask for Mocha. Some of the students
just want him in the room as part of their learning
day. And so we have him there, and it helps them know
what their voice level should sound like or what
their behavior should look like so they don’t spook him. And some students that don’t have pets, they’re able to have that opportunity here at school. – I pet him once and do my work. – [Interviewer] And after petting him, that kind of makes you feel better? – Yeah.
– Go ahead. – When Mocha’s right next to you, it can help you work. – I have definitely
noticed since Mocha’s here that when the students
do come in the classroom they’re more excited to be here, and that’s one of the
first things they ask for. They even arrange the room so
that Mocha feels comfortable in the classroom. It gives
them a sense of pride; it gives them something
to do in the classroom besides just academic work. They feel like they can be
successful at something else, whether it’s bringing Mocha water or helping feed him,
giving him a back rub, they’ve found a lot of
other interests in school besides just their academic work. – When I see Mocha, it makes me feel happy. (upbeat music) (children chattering)

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