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NYer Of The Week: Audrey Hendler Uses Dogs To Help Teach Underserved Students

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Sit, roll over and jump are not commands normally heard in the classroom, but this week's New Yorker is introducing dogs into schools to help students improve their social and behavorial skills. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report.

A dog is not your typical classroom assistant. But for Audrey Hendler and the Broome Street Academy, the dogs are teaching tools, helping students develop social skills.

"There's so much that we can learn from them. They help us live in the moment," Hendler says. "It helps you, I think, look at the world in a different way."

Hendler's view of the world changed when she volunteered with a dog program at a prison.

"It was amazing, the impact that the dogs had on the inmates, in terms of their self-esteem, and they were good at something, and somebody trusted them with something," she says. "It transformed inmates, and at the same time, it transformed me."

In 2010, she quit her job and founded "A Fair Shake for Youth". It's a nonprofit using trained therapy dogs to help underserved youth build self-esteem and understand responsibility.

"It's a way for the kids to experience teaching and experience having a relationship with a living being that's positive," Hendler says. "The things that these dogs have gone through, a lot of the kids can relate to, whether they've been abandoned or they haven't been well-treated."

Patience, discipline, positive reinforcement. As the students learn how to teach the dogs good behavior, similar lessons begin to take effect in their lives.

"It teaches you responsibility," says Briana Chandler, a student at the Broome Street Academy. "It teaches you how to be kind to new people and how to respond to certain body language, and how to be nice and kind, no matter what happens or any situation."

"A lot of the kids in this school are a little troubled," says Ashley Miles, a student at the Broome Street Academy. "But when they see the dogs, they automatically just light up and have a better feeling about it, just get carefree and happy."

So, for offering a helping paw to improve the lives of young New Yorkers, Audrey Hendler is our New Yorker of the Week.

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