UNCW and Community Partner Paws4People to Celebrate Collaboration Oct. 9-10

Friday, October 09, 2015

UNCW’s School of Health and Applied Human Sciences (SHAHS) will join Paws4People Oct. 9-10 to celebrate the 4th Annual Reunion & Graduation ceremony, where students who have completed the university’s four-course assistance dog training program (ADTP) will be recognized. Founded in 2011 with a class of just 24 students from various majors from recreational therapy to accounting, this hands-on program is the only one of its kind in the nation, providing UNCW students a unique experience that can serve as a major advantage in their future careers.

The dogs, which have been training with the students over the course of the program, will finally be united with their new owners.

“It is an incredible moment,” says Chris Lantz, SHAHS director. “It’s a moment that changes lives forever. We have had people who couldn’t sleep at night or go out into public places before they met their assistance dog. These dogs help people through their difficulties. They become partners."

The ADTP reunion and graduation ceremony, which is open to the public, has grown each year. The 2015 event will be held downtown by the riverfront in the Wilmington Convention Center. ADTP dogs are trained to help a variety of people in need. From helping a veteran who suffers from PTSD to guiding and assisting a person in a wheelchair, these dogs are capable of amazing things. In some cases, students who complete the program are allowed to keep their dogs to utilize in their respective careers such as social work, recreation therapy, gerontology and education. The program’s goal is not only to teach how incredible these dogs can be, but to show how students can utilize assistance dogs to impact their own futures.

Through the course of the ADTP program, students are taught all about the different types of assistance dogs serving today and the types of disabilities assistance dogs are trained to help. In the second half of the four-course program, students become fully responsible for the 24-hour care of their dog. For an entire year, they are in charge of socializing, training and caring for their animal. ADTP demands a lot of time and commitment from its students, but each person involved is guaranteed a rewarding experience.

“When universities engage with the community and combine their resources, the rewards are exponential,” explains Lantz. “The program has been good to the community, the students and the dogs. It is a classic example of the good that can happen when universities work with their communities.”

-- Kamerin Roth