An elementary school teacher and animal lover recently assigned her second-grade students to write persuasive and heartwarming letters for sheltered animals in hopes of getting adopted.
Kensey Jones has been a second-grade teacher at St. Michael’s Episcopal School, in Richmond, Virginia for the past eight years. She also volunteers at Richmond Animal Care and Control during the weekends.
Jones thought it would be a great idea to inspire her students to write persuasive letters for the animals at the RACC to try and find them forever homes faster.
“The idea came to me that I could connect [the students’] persuasive writing paragraphs with something real in the community,” Jones said to Good Morning America.
Each of the students wrote letters to one of the 24 dogs and one cat were living at the shelter. Each letter persuaded readers to adopt the assigned pet from the point of view of the animal. Every hand-written would be accompanied by a drawing of the animal done by the student.
The director of RACC, Christie Chipps Peters, recalls when Jones approached her with the idea.
“She emailed me back in January, and was like, ‘You can say no, but what do you think about this idea of having the kids write persuasive writing, like from the perspective of one of the shelter dogs?’ and I thought it was an amazing idea. It sort of just grew from there. She’s a genius and we were happy to be part of it,” she told Good Morning America.
The students used their writing to make the animal feel relatable to the potential owner. 2nd grader, Winnie Rice, wrote in her letter about Sleigh Ride, a chubby, blue-gray pit-bull who has been at RACC for a while.
Her letter read “Hi my name is Sleigh Ride! Do you want to adopt me? You can train me if you want! Can you put a heart on my collar? I am a girl. Who are you? You can snuggle with me! I promise that I will be a good dog. You can even sleep with me if you want! I love going on walks and playing outside. I am a medium sized dog. I’m getting bored of this place. Would you love me forever? Love, a cute puppy.”
After ten days of posting the letter alongside the kennel, Sleigh Ride was adopted.
Another student named, Aubrey Consolvo, wrote her letter about Sunday Special, a tan and white pit-bull afraid of people. She wrote in her letter, “Hello, my name is Sunday Special. I would love to be adopted. If you do adopt me, I hope I will brighten up your Sundays like the SUN! You’ll be my Sunday Special, and I hope I’ll be yours!”
Once the letters were posted, 20 dogs and the one cat found homes. “Many of the dogs were adopted,” Jones said.
“I think eight or nine went home within that first weekend.”
“I didn’t think they would get adopted,” Peters added. “I mean, I really didn’t have an expectation. So anything was good, but I was surprised that they got adopted that quickly.”
Jones believed that the process was a wonderful contribution for the animals and the students. It had inspired them to continue on with persuasive writing beyond the project.
“The students have been enthusiastic through the process,” Jones told NPR.
“They are just so excited to use their writing, whether it’s to persuade, to inform, to do some research.”
Peters helped motivate students by bringing in one white pit bull-terrier puppy named Snow on Jan. 31. She said that the kids were “so excited and happy and jumping out of their skin” upon meeting the dog. She informed them about RACC’s mission to get these pets adopted.
Pit bulls and older dogs are difficult ones to adopt for not being considered desirable enough. Peters compiled a list of dogs who are harder to adopt due to health or behavioral issues.
Peters states that “Ordinarily, people might walk past these animals without taking a second look, but the letters and matching illustrations encouraged people to slow down.”
Only four dogs remain at the shelter: Pebble, Yosemite, Kotey, and I’ll Tumble For Ya.
Despite the project happening in February of this year, students still ask about the animals they wrote about.
“Has I’ll Tumble For Ya been adopted yet?” Jones remembers one student asking before class started.
The kids were also given a virtual tour of the shelter through social media and received updates every time a dog they’ve helped got adopted.
Jones wishes to inspire her students by making them believe that they could do anything. She wishes for other teachers to follow her example by partnering with local shelters. She also hopes to repeat the same assignment next year with a new group of students.
Peters said that RACC would love to collaborate with students again. “We will definitely do it in the future…I think I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
Hopefully, with a little more help from some majical second graders, more people will come and take these dogs to their fur-ever homes.