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Look for the blue bandana

District welcomes first school support dog

Ada Vista Elementary students welcome Jersey, Forest Hills’ first PRIDE Pup, to their school

Forest Hills — Wearing her light blue bandana makes it easy to identify Ada Vista Elementary’s new PRIDE pup, Jersey, thanks to Northern Hills Middle School seventh-grader Mabel Schuler.

“Earlier this year, we had a (different) dog sitting to the side of the playground, and our students had not really gotten the chance to get to know Jersey yet,” said Mabel’s mother, first-grade teacher Laura Schuler, who spoke at a recognition program for Jersey. 

With the blue bandana, “Jersey will be easily identifiable to the students, staff and others of who he is and why he is at the school,” Schuler said.

Mabel, a cadette with the Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore Council, started the bandana project last summer as her Silver Award project. She spent the summer raising about $400 by babysitting and doing other jobs.

She also looked at options for what Jersey and other future PRIDE Pups could wear. Being able to pet the dogs is paramount, so another wearable item such as a vest was out.

Building the Perfect Bandana

Northern Hills Middle School seventh-grader Mabel Schuler holds up the bandana she designed for the Forest Hills’ PRIDE pup program

Mabel worked with a family friend, graphic designer Michelle Bennett, to create the logo for the PRIDE Pup: a paw print with four hearts. Three of the hearts each have the colors of the three Forest Hills attendance districts: blue for Northern, green for Central and red for Eastern. Mabel said she purchased about 50 bandanas in the different school colors as well, so while Jersey wears blue, future Orchard View support dog, Belle, will wear red. 

The bandana includes logos of those who supported the project, along with the phrase “Please pet me” in English, Spanish and Chinese.

“Ada Vista is a Spanish immersion school, so that is the reason I included the Spanish,” Mabel said, (and) “Meadow Brook Elementary has a Chinese immersion program, which is why there is Chinese.” 

More Comfort On the Way

Jersey is the district’s first PRIDE Pup, with PRIDE standing for “Persistent, Respectful, Inclusive, Dependable, Every Day!,” which is the district’s Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports focus. Jersey is one of several school comfort animals planned for the district, Schuler said. 

The plan is for the district to have school comfort animals first in all of its elementary and fifth/sixth grade buildings, and eventually in all of the district’s buildings.

Forest Hills is working with Interquest CARES, which supplies and trains support comfort animals such as Jersey. 

Ada Vista Principal Allison Woodside said having Jersey at the school will bring compassion and emotional support. Jersey lives with a host family, who brings her to and from the school.

“I love having Jersey here,” said fourth-grader Julian Medina. “(She) is going to be helpful in keeping us calm and not to worry when we have feelings that we are having a hard time dealing with.”

Jersey spent time in January at Forest Hills Eastern, as students and staff worked through the sudden and tragic loss of a student in a car accident. 

The initial outlay for a school support is between $6,000-$7,000. Community organizations are helping to cover the cost, school officials said. Several local veterinary clinics have volunteered to cover regular vet visits, and  SpartanNash and ChowHound are helping with the first two years of food and other supplies. 

Read more from Forest Hills: 
Seventh-grader talks about gift of confidence provided by prosthetic arm nine years ago
Brushing up with their art skills with an unexpected teacher

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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