PLAINWELL, Mich. (WOOD) — There is a new mascot walking the halls at Plainwell High School, and it’s not a Trojan. A group of students has worked hard the past year to raise enough money to have an emotional support dog at the school.
“I am so proud of everything that we have been able to do as part of UMatter club and that the school’s been able to do to help us in order on our journey to get Pyp,” said Plainwell student Bri Johnson.
The national UMatter club, operated under Friendship Circle, was brought to Plainwell a few years ago.
“We have 32 students in the UMatter club, and their goal is to create awareness about mental health and erasing the stigma with mental health and with suicide in high school specifically,” said assistant high school principal Debra Beals.
“The UMatter team gives people an outlet to express how they would like to change the school for the better,” said senior Kaedence Smith.
One of those positive changes is a new Chocolate Lab named Pyp. The idea was inspired by Allegan High School, which also has an emotional support dog.
“We all love her very much. We can tell that she is going to be a great part here at Plainwell,” said sophomore student Isabelle Meeker.
Pyp, who stepped into her new role after the return of the holiday break on Jan. 9, was trained by Paws With a Cause. Students fundraised $3,000, while the school covered the other half.
“[The students] did their thing getting this going which is amazing and then I kind of came in on the back end, ‘Hey Scott, would you be willing to be the handler for Pyp?'” Scott Glass said.
As the school’s social worker, Glass sees what a tremendous impact the UMatter group is having, so stepping up to care for Pyp full-time was an easy decision. He explained that once the dog is fully certified, she’ll be able to go anywhere in the building where there’s a need. That could be anything from providing a calming presence during a test to helping comfort a student in crisis. There will also be certain days and times kids can sign up for an appointment to spend time with the pup.
“I also see her being a presence in passing time between classes out in the hallway,” Glass said. “The opportunities and the possibilities are endless.”
Glass added that you don’t realize how much of an impact an emotional support animal can have until you see it firsthand.
“You don’t really know I think until you have that student and you know a little bit about their background and you know the trauma they’ve been through… to see them come in and meet Pyp and they just light up… it’s like they’re a whole new person almost,” he reflected. “I would strongly, strongly urge and recommend that any school, business whatever… it makes a world of difference.”