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Educational Support Dogs Help Students In St. Cloud

Haven, Sterling, Annie, and Welch are the coolest classmates you could ask for.

"They read [with me]," said Logan, a special needs fifth grader at St. Cloud Elementary School.

Logan knows that any one of those Educational Support Dogs are always there for him. His teacher, Ms. Crystal Nori-Gross, was inspired to get a trained service dog for her classroom after one of her pervious students had her own service dog. Ms. Nori-Gross noticed that the presence of that dog had a positive impact on her students. She took notes of her observations, gathered some data, and presented her findings to the school district. That's how she got approval for St. Cloud Elementary School's first dog, Welch.

"Watching students open up just because a dog sits next to them is a really amazing thing," said Stephanie Biehl, a Kindergarten through second grade teacher.

Ultimately, it's hard to measure the true impact of these dogs on paper, said Ms. Nori-Gross.

The four golden pups may not be in every classroom, but they sure have captured the hearts of the students at St. Cloud Elementary.

"Every single time I come into their room, they are so excited to see me," said Adalynn, a first-grader.

One first-grader makes a regular stop by Ms. Nori-Gross' classroom every morning when he arrives to school.

"I go and knock on her door, and I pet the dogs," said Luciano. "Then I just go to class when I'm done."

These dogs have found a way to get kids excited about each school day.

"They make me happy," said Luciano.

You'll find that same happiness in the Life Lab at St. Cloud High School every Wednesday.

"It’s a lab that teaches our special needs children how to live independently," said Lucy Williams, the Life Lab teacher.

Murphy and Curly hang out with the students, so they can offer their assistance.

"There are various ways they help there’s one student that has a hard time bending over and picking things up, so Murphy will actually go over and pick up a pencil," said Ms. Williams.

Ana Carolina sometimes struggles with anxiety. Luckily, the presence of Murphy and Curly ease that.

"They help me with like calming down," said Ana Carolina. "If I’m nervous for something, they calm me down and make me happy."

There's no doubt about it, these dogs truly mean a lot to their students.

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