Visit from Joy

Relieving exam stress through a visit from a therapy dog


Background Information

Growing up, Katie had two shelter cats that were her favorite things in the world and later on she got two dogs that she loves. She has always had a passion for animals and wanted to make a change in the stress levels at her school through animals. She began thinking about her own experience with dogs and that is what sparked her idea to bring a therapy dog to her school around exam time to help relieve student stress. Katie wanted this project to give students a break but also to educate them on healthy ways to relieve stress because this issue was something she first had and it was something she could personally relate to.

“I know how stressful school can get and I know that not everyone has pets that they can take a break to play with.” – Katie Kelly


Implementation of Project

Katie’s first step to completing her project was to reach out to someone that would be willing to bring a therapy dog to her school’s campus. This was a bit harder than she thought it would be, but she eventually found someone who was available and excited to help with her event, bringing “Joy” the therapy dog. She interviewed this person and asked questions about the work he does with his therapy dog and what the process of getting a therapy dog certified was like. Katie then began working on informational pamphlets about stress relief and also flyers to hang around her school to promote her event. She hadn’t anticipated how much time would have to go into the preparation for her project but she was able to make the process fun and engaging which made completing the project enjoyable.

“I hadn’t anticipated how much time would have to go into the preparation for my project but finding ways to make the process fun and engaging made completing the project enjoyable.” – Katie Kelly

Results of Project

Katie saw firsthand how much people liked just sitting with Joy and talking about how they felt about exams and about therapy dogs and what kind of work they do. Katie saw kids from both her middle and upper school attend the event as well as a few teachers. In total around 50 people attended her event and she loved seeing so many people together talking about their experiences with exams but also different topics that had nothing to do with school. This was the impact she was looking for: students taking a break from studying and having fun with each other, discussing things outside of school.

“I am so happy that I was able to see students getting their minds off stressful exams and also meeting Joy the therapy dog.” – Katie Kelly

What’s Next

Katie hopes to hold another, similar event to this next year in the spring for final exams and again the following year. Hearing from students that they wanted Joy around all the time made this project so special and made Katie hopeful for future events. When she graduates, she hopes to pass the project onto a club at her school that is focused on mental health because she thinks that they will do a great job running an event like this and also improving it with more information about stress relief.

“I hope to be able to use the leadership skills I’ve learned both through Alzar and completing my CLP in college and after seeing the impact my event made at my high school, I will definitely try to host a similar event for my classmates in college.” – Katie Kelly