Kyria Henry

December 14, 2015

The best moments for Kyria Henry as program director and instructor for UNCW’s Assistance Dog Training Program (ADTP) come from seeing her students let go – handing over the leashes of fully trained assistance dogs to their new owners. 

“Witnessing the impact that this program’s experience has on the students who take part in it never ceases to amaze, revitalize and encourage me,” says Henry.

Convinced at the young age of 12 that her love of dog training could help others, Henry founded paws4people, a nonprofit organization that pairs custom-trained assistance dogs with those living with serious illnesses or disabilities. Today, 16 years after its founding, the organization spans from coast to coast with more than 550 dogs currently under management aiding those in need. In 2011, paws4people took a big step forward in its mission to help others by combining forces with UNCW to create the first and only comprehensive, academic assistance dog-training program in the country.

“This program empowers students to add a unique, marketable skill set to their education,” Henry explains, “but they are also learning how to utilize these dogs to impact their own futures.”

As the CEO of paws4people and the instructor for all ADTP classes at UNCW, nearly every aspect of Henry’s life is consumed by canines. That has never been a problem for Henry, who spends her infrequent free time working with the NC K9 Emergency Response Team and the statewide search and rescue team, all while working towards her certification in Human Remains Detection with her dog, Hobbs.

“My job and my personal life are pretty entwined,” Henry admits. “Work takes up pretty much every waking moment. But I do find time to work out as a stress reliever, which is very important.”

Even with her hands (and schedule) full and with ADTP classes at full student capacity, Henry’s main goal for the coming year is progress. 

“I’m hopeful that the program will see growth in the future so that even more students are able to participate and have this incredible experience.”

-- Kamerin Roth