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UMPI students present projects to Canines for Disabled Kids Executive Director

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Students in the University of Maine at Presque Isle's Business Communication class recently had the unique opportunity to present the projects they'd created for the nonprofit Canines for Disabled Kids to the executive director of the national organization – in person.

Students in the Professional Communication and Journalism class with Dr. Jacqui Lowman have been working all semester on projects for nonprofits such as Healthy Aroostook, a project of the Aroostook County Action Program, and Canines for Disabled Kids, developing media that will help the organizations to spread their messages.

By the end of the Fall semester, all their projects – books, brochures, cookbooks, and everything in between – will be turned over to the respective organizations. In early December, however, students were able to present their newly finished, assistance dog-related projects to Kristin Hartness Law, the Executive Director of Canines for Disabled Kids, who traveled from Massachusetts to see the students' work first-hand.

Canines for Disabled Kids was founded in 1998 as an offshoot of the NEADS Dog for Deaf and Disabled Americans training program. According to its website, CDK is an assistance dog program that fills the important need of providing trained assistance dogs for children under the age of 12. These dogs are trained to help children with autism, trauma, hearing impairments, and other physical disabilities, and assist disabled children in classroom settings.

The Business Communication students produced a series of children's books and other items for the nonprofit focusing on different disabilities. They include a book each on therapy dogs, on social dogs for children with autism, on hearing dogs, and on service dogs for people with physical disabilities. A fifth book is told from the viewpoint of a service dog who meets many children with disabilities until finding her match.

During the Dec. 8 classroom presentations before Hartness Law, students described the process they went through to create their books. Along with the expected interviewing, writing, editing and picture-finding, the students "tested" their books on a group of local fourth-graders. Many students expressed a hope that readers of their books would develop a greater understanding about assistance dogs and children who need their aid.

Hartness Law told the students how pleased she was with the projects and, at the end of class, showed them a brochure that a high school student had created for their organization years ago. The nonprofit modified the brochure, she said, but continues to use it to this day. She thanked the students for their efforts and told them that their projects would be useful to the organization long after they've graduated.

"We're very excited about this partnership," Dr. Lowman said. "We plan to continue and expand our work with CDK. This is a wonderful connection for our program. And I couldn't be more proud of my students. They really produced some amazing work."