For some high school students, senior projects are requirements that bring them one step closer to graduation. But for one Cabrillo High School senior, her project served as a chance to raise awareness of a cause she believes in.
After being assigned a creative project in her English class, Chrissy Hedges took the opportunity to pen "Wiley Comes Home," a book about a dog she adopted two years ago after volunteering for the Companion Animal Placement Assistance program at the LaPAWS animal shelter in Lompoc.
Hedges, 17, wrote and designed the material about her experience with Wiley to illustrate the rewards that may come with adopting a shelter animal.
The teen said while many people have preconceived notions about shelter animals, they just need an owner whom they can trust and will teach them how to be a good pet.
"Dogs live to please their owner, and the turnaround that we saw in Wiley's life once he became socialized is proof enough that adoption gives amazing results," Hedges said.
"Shelter pets are the best animals to bring into a family," she added. "The love and trust that they show you is amazing, and the amount of growth that you see in them, psychologically, is so rewarding."
Since producing the text, she has been selling the books at $10 each, donating the proceeds to the CAPA program and participating in local outreach.
On Monday, Hedges visited La Canada Elementary School, where she read the book to students and spoke about its message.
After hearing about Hedges' work, Santa Barbara County Animal Services commended her.
"We would like to applaud Chrissy for not only choosing to adopt a shelter pet but for designing a creative way to get the word out about what a rewarding experience it can be for both the dog and the adopter and for giving back," a shelter representative said.
"She is truly a remarkable young woman and we are so lucky to have her in our community."
Moving forward, Hedges is excited to continue raising money for the local shelter and plans to visit other elementary schools along the Central Coast during the coming months.
Ultimately, she is hoping readers who are considering getting an animal look toward shelters first.
"When adopting a shelter pet, you truly save them and give them a second chance at life, and they 'thank you' every day for that through the loyalty and love they give you."
Jamie Guista covers education in Santa Maria and the Central Coast for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow her on Twitter @JamieGuista.
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