Assistance dog program benefits from Grade 10 students’ philanthropy

Pair raises $5,000 through YPI program at Brookswood Secondary School

YPI coordinator/career education teacher Michelle Allen and Pacific Assistance Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS) executive director Laura Watamanuk flank Grade 10 students Marie Peters and Brooke Balharry during a cheque presentation Friday morning, March 9 at Brookswood Secondary School. The $5,000 donation to PADS was raised by Peters and Balharry through the the Youth Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) program. Also pictured is Cadence, a golden retriever that is a PADS dog. Troy Landreville Langley Times

Marie Peters and Brooke Balharry have a soft spot for dogs.

That’s why the Grade 10 students at Brookswood Secondary School worked together to raise $5,000 for PADS (Pacific Assistance Dogs Society).

PADS is a Burnaby-based non-profit organization that breeds, raises, trains and supports certified assistance dogs, pairing them with people living with disabilities, and with community care professionals.

Peters and Balharry were selected as the winners of the Youth Philanthropy Initiative (YPI), which “takes an innovative approach to directing grant dollars to local charities by involving high school students in the decision-making process,” noted YPI coordinator Michelle Allen.

YPI ( works with schools to develop students’ knowledge and skills as active and informed philanthropists, in order to help them bring about positive and lasting change in their communities.

Brookswood is one of three Langley schools running YPI this year, with the hopes of adding another school in 2018-2019.

Allen is working with the Langley School District to develop a similar project for all Grade 10s in the district so, she said, “all students can learn and live out the valuable lessons that are gained from the YPI program.”

“YPI is an amazing opportunity for students to learn about real issues impacting their community, to meet people who are working to make a difference and then share with peers about what they’ve learned,” Allen said.

“The $5000 grant that they could win is just a bonus to the overall YPI experience. This is practical, exciting and life-changing education at its best.”

Peters said PADS was an easy cause to support. “We really have a love for animals,” she said.

Balharry added, “I love dogs and I have a dog of my own.”

PADS executive director Laura Watamanuk visited Brookswood Secondary Friday morning to accept the donation.

“We’re very honoured that the girls selected PADS as their charity of choice,” Watamanuk said. “We love the Youth Philanthropy Initiative because it helps the students have a greater understanding of supporting community charities and doing greater good for the community.”

The money is a big boost for PADS which is 100 per cent funded by donations.

“Five-thousand dollars is a great impact for our program,” Watamanuk said.

IDEA Summit

The Langley School District is promoting social entrepreneurship skills in schools across the district. Look for a special event this spring, called the IDEA Summit (Innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship & Altruism), where students of all ages explore opportunities for entrepreneurship and design, as well as showcase what they’ve been doing within their schools.

This upcoming event is open to all members of the community, including a chance to see some amazing student initiatives, and a community dialogue event, where educators, parents, business people and other community members can come together to explore why developing an entrepreneurial mindset is so important for young people.

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