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We love hearing from our graduates that the animal assisted education program inspired a continued commitment to working with therapy/ service dogs and helping others.


Holly Balvin-Slonina

Class of 2010

As a former Greely High School student I have a first hand knowledge and experience of the multiple psychological and psychological benefits that are associated with animal assisted education (AAE). Nothing made my day better than walking into class and getting to see the black lab named Jasmine's smiling face.  

Dr. Allen’s program made such an impact on my life. So much in fact,  that as a future social worker (I'm completing my MSW program at USM ),  I hope to have a therapy dog as part of my work as a school-based clinician! Thank you for your support through this intense MSW research program and for enabling me to conduct my research on the animal assisted education program.  I graduate from in May [2019], and soon I will be a school clinician.

Link to research

-Holly Balvin


Caitlin Croce

Class of 2014

For me,  there was a lot to look forward to beginning high school, but, I most looked forward looked forward to participating the therapy dog club. This club provided me the opportunity to interact with special education students and made me feel like I belonged to something special and I was really making a difference in the lives of others. Students that I otherwise wouldn’t necessarily get to know because we were not in the same classes. Some activities that I helped with included: teaching the kids how to use their bodies through gross motor skills by throwing a ball, all while learning how to safely interact with a dog. We also worked hard to teach the kids how to give Jade commands through American Sign Language. The kids learned how to do ‘sit and stay’ in sign language. The students also learned how to safely give a dog treats. Working with this population of students who have the biggest hearts and the most love for everything they do was definitely the highlight of many days in high school. It was rewarding to see what a huge smile the kids had and how happy they were to get the opportunity to work with Jade. 

During my junior year,  I got a 6 month old black lab named Cabela. I worked with Dr. Allen in an Extended Learning Opportunity  to train Cabela and get her certified as a therapy dog.

The Animal Assisted Education program at Greely lead me to continue helping students with disabilities into my senior year at Greely. I did my senior project with the Animal Assisted Education Program. I worked with students in special education. This work reinforced my beliefs in the benefit of therapy dogs in schools. After high school to earn my B.S. in Special Education and Elementary Education from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. After graduation I began working in the Special Education field to help young children with special needs. My goal is to incorporate a therapy dog in my professional work.

-Caitlin Croce 


Larissa Savage

Class of 2015

I met Jade my freshman year walking through the halls with one of my friends. By my sophomore year I was apart of the animal assisted education team, which at the time I had no idea how important it would be to me. Throughout my high school career, down to the week I graduated in 2015, Jade and I were quite the pair. Jade and I shared many cuddles on the bench in Dr. Allen’s room.  Jade helped give me the motivation to do my schoolwork, ease anxiety and make connections with peers.

Today, I own Sit Stay Play.  It is an all around dog business that offers dog walking, in home dog boarding, and dog training. I have a special love for helping owners and dogs achieve their therapy dog goals. I currently have a therapy dog in training which I hope will be certified by the end of the year. All of this is possible because Jade opened my eyes to the benefits of therapy dogs and dogs in general in someone’s life. 

Happy retirement Jade! 

-Larissa Savage

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