Hempfield students read to shelter animals at The Animal Friends of Westmoreland

Hempfield Area Cyber Academy (HACA) students cultivate compassion by reading to shelter animals housed at The Animal Friends of Westmoreland in celebration of the Read Across America Program

Youngwood, PA (March 1, 2021) – Launched in 1998 by the National Education Association (NEA) and guided by a committee of educators, NEA’s Read Across America is the nation’s largest celebration of reading. This year-round program focuses on motivating children and teens to read through events, partnerships, and reading resources that are about everyone, and for everyone.

Across the nation, teachers, teenagers, librarians, politicians, actors, athletes, parents, grandparents, and now animals too, develop Read Across America activities to bring reading excitement to children of all ages. The Animal Friends of Westmoreland, an adoption center for dogs, cats and bunnies, located in Youngwood, PA has expanded their volunteer program to include children under their minimum required age of 13.  The shelter depends on volunteers to assist in feeding, cleaning, walking and caring for the animals until they find their forever homes.  Volunteers up until now had to be 13 years old to care for cats, and 16 years old to care and volunteer with the dogs.  Now, children ages 5-12 can volunteer too. 

“We recognize the role reading can contribute to these young children, and to our animals”, comments Kelli Brisbane, Executive Director of The Animal Friends of Westmoreland.  “We hope to boost the students’ enthusiasm for reading, by having them interact with our cats and dogs” she includes.

The Animal Friends of Westmoreland has directly rescued, rehabilitated, and rehomed thousands of animals since the inception in the community and indirectly touched thousands more through their programs.  Brisbane reached out to friend, and 4th grade teacher Barb Rebon at HACA to take a temperature for the new Zoom reading program.  Rebon was on-board, and has been working to collaborate and brainstorm with other teachers to create and implement a schedule for the kids.  

Current schedule:

Wednesday: Western Wear Wednesday

Thursday: Thank Goodness It’s PA Day! Wear something that reminds you of our great state of PA!

Freedom Friday: Dress in your red, white, and blue!

HACA was launched this school year due to the pandemic.  It was an option created to give families of elementary children a choice between full-time online learning or full-time in person brick and mortar.  Over 450 elementary students from Hempfield’s five elementary schools enrolled in HACA. 

“The online program has been very successful”, comments Barb Rebon, HACA teacher.  

There are currently 21 elementary teachers involved in the HACA program.  As part of the Read Across America program, the HACA teachers developed a theme for every day of the week to engage the students and their love for reading.  Rebon was key in working with Brisbane to organize days for the HACA students to read to the shelter animals.  There has also been interest from Stanwood Elementary school, as well as other parents with children in the community, as a result, the Zoom reading program will be incorporated as an ongoing volunteer opportunity for younger children at the adoption center.  

The Animal Friends of Westmoreland Adoption Center is located at 216 Depot Street, Youngwood, Pennsylvania, and the Animal Friends Farm Sanctuary is located in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

The Animal Friends of Westmoreland is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and depends on donations, sponsorships, and other tangible support from community residents and businesses to support their mission.

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