This is the second in a post in a two-part series by Erin Ellis, Community Engagement Director of Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe (HSTT) about their youth volunteer program. This post highlights two former youth volunteers in a “Where are they now?” fashion. Read the first post.
At Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe (HSTT), we had no idea when we began this journey of involving youth as volunteers what exactly the future would hold. Our hope was that these kids would learn that a shelter is not a sad place, that it’s not a place where only animals with “issues” are brought, but a place where pets feel safe and are loved and just need someone to take a chance on them; to see who they really are and help them find their new person. The reality is that you never know when you plant a seed how that seed will grow. Sometimes it grows just a little, and sometimes that single seed grows into a flower that eventually grows into a field of flowers. Youth are our future, let’s get them involved and inspired now.
As we shared in the first post in this series, youth have been a part of HSTT’s volunteer program for nearly 15 years. All of the youth that started with us back in 2008 are now adults. So we followed up to find out how their experience here as a volunteer has helped shape who they are today and the impact we had on them when it comes to pets.
Emma Costa was a young volunteer that started with HSTT back in 2010. Her experience not only led her to adoption, but to a career path spurred by her time as a summer camp counselor. Emma shared about her time at HSTT:
“I always loved animals, but we weren’t allowed to have any because my mom was allergic, so we started volunteering together so I could be around animals. We volunteered together for three years, going roughly once a week. After she passed away, my dad started volunteering with me and it didn’t take long for us to adopt our first dog, Chance. This was about the same time Erin Ellis, Volunteer Manager at the time, asked me if I would help create an HSTT summer camp program. I worked with a group of other volunteers and teachers to create what is now HSTT’s Edventure Summer Camp.
“Being part of the Edventure Camp team was what sparked my interest in wanting to be a teacher. Fast forward several years and I am now currently a student teacher! I also have never lost my passion for adopting (adopt, don’t shop), and that stemmed from volunteering.
“HSTT Edventure Camp not only educated so many kids in the area and their families but also taught me so much about overpopulation and the problems surrounding shelters everywhere. This information has stuck with me since the first year I was a counselor, and I have continued to share this information with my peers throughout college. After talking to my college friends about their shelters in their town, I have learned that HSTT is really doing it right. The staff and volunteers care so much about the animals and the community, and the animals are able to feel comfortable and safe while they wait to find a forever home. I am a proud forever supporter of the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe!”
HSTT has always placed a high value on our young volunteers so when it comes to creating some of our programs, we want them to be a part of that planning process, we want their help at our events and value their ideas and opinions. At some point these young kids will become the future of animal welfare, that is why their input now is so important.
Natalie Lang Ree became a volunteer when she was eight years old. Along with her mom and older sister, they would spend time with our cats and dogs, cuddling, and providing love and comfort to those little fur-balls. Here’s what Natalie shared about her experience with HSTT:
“I always loved going to the humane society. It was stress-free and welcoming. When I was younger I was very shy, so spending time with animals eased the pressure of communicating. I absolutely loved playing with cats. My favorite part was when a cat curled up on my lap. You would feel sort of chosen.
“Not only did we spend time volunteering at the shelter, but our family also fostered. We eventually adopted two amazing cats, Comet and Butter. Those two cats played a big role in my life thanks to HSTT. They were rescued from a hoarder and I am so grateful we could provide them with a safe and loving forever home. I am currently a freshman at Carleton College and although I can’t have animals here, I know I will someday in the future. My volunteer time at HSTT has taught me how important adoption really is. I will always choose adoption because I know how many animals are in need of a home and someday, I want be that forever home for someone in need.”
Find out more about HSTT’s volunteer and foster programs.