A Huguenot school welcomes a 4-legged student to its roster this year. The canine companion is already helping her classmates feel at ease in the classroom. NY1's Anthony Pascale reports.
It's her first month in a new school, but Sugar is already scoring high marks with her classmates.
"When sugar is around you don't feel sad. You feel happy," said an I.S. 7 student. "It brings your mood up."
I.S. 7 welcomed the 2-year-old terrier mix at the start of the new school year.
It's all part of the Department of Education's Comfort Dog Program.
The initiative places rescue animals in schools across the city.
Principal Nora DeRosa says the program helps students cope with stress.
"It lets them to just be themselves, just to say what they wanna say, to let loose and not worry about their hair or their sneakers or the test that's coming," said DeRosa. "Just let them be kids."
The DOE launched the initiative last year.
It’s now in place at 40 schools across the city.
I.S. 7 is one of six schools on Staten Island to participate.
Administrators have been slowly integrating Sugar into daily activities.
She will eventually be used to help teach kids how to be responsible pet owners.
She will also take part in counseling sessions and crisis intervention programs.
"Sugar makes you feel good about yourself. So, if you're not doing really good like let's say you're in reading and you're not doing very good, you'll think about sugar and you'll do better," said another I.S. 7 student.
The DOE works closely with an animal rescue organization to evaluate each dog before he or she is accepted into the program.
A volunteer then adopts the dog and takes care it outside of school.
Teacher Michele Ferrante volunteered to adopt Sugar.
She says it’s been a positive experience for both her family and her students.
“We get the comfort of her at the house and then she’s shared with the I.S. 7 community staff and students during the day," said Ferrante.
It’s expected to take three years to fully integrate Sugar into school activities.
Meantime, she will continue helping students unleash their full potential.