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Byron Nelson HS Jr. Leads Students in Training Guide Dogs for the Visually Impaired

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TROPHY CLUB, Texas -- While many students may be taking a break from work during the winter break, one group of students are working non-stop.

“This is Novella, she is a 7-month-old yellow Labrador, and she’s in training with Guide Dogs for the blind. About 2 years ago, I went to an FFA convention in Fort Worth, and I found out about guide dogs. I brought the idea to my agriculture science teachers, I got it approved by them, and I got it approved by my family. And so I started raising in October of last year,” Jennifer Powell, a Junior at Byron Nelson High School said.

Powell is training guide dogs 24/7, “The interest at my school picked up a lot. We officially launched a club at our school called Lone Star Guide Dog Raisers-Byron Nelson FFA, and we have seven puppies now. And I am the club leader, along with my dad.”

“Jenny has now started a specific club here with Byron Nelson FFA, and we're very grateful to the Northwest ISD and Byron Nelson for letting her bring this program in here,” her father Edward Powell explained.

He commended the legacy of the Nelson family and showed appreciation to the Lone Star Guide Dog Raisers.

“As a parent, nothing makes you happier than to see a child enthusiastic and energetic about a project or a career. This is something Jenny can do for the rest of her life.  She’s taken one organization that had six dogs to begin with, and we now have 13 dogs in our program. A lot of that is to the dedication of volunteers like Jenny.”

“We have a great group of people and hope to get more people involved as the year goes on,” Jennifer said.

People like freshman Jessica Loucks.

“All sorts of different skills, how to work with people and how to work with animals and how to work together,” Loucks said. “I think it’s a really great program to be a part of and I’m proud to be part of it.”

“No words can describe how happy you feel when your dog is placed with a visually impaired person. You’re helping other people, it’s a greater good,” Jennifer said.  “A question we’re asked a lot, 'Is it hard getting rid of your puppy?’  And that answer is, it’s very hard. A lot of tears are involved. I feel like the dog sometimes wants to cry too because you form such a close bond to these dogs, that it’s hard giving them up. But like I said, it’s for a greater good, we come into this knowing we’re going to have to give these dogs up because we’re giving a visually impaired person eyes that will lead them around.”

After about 18 months, the guide dogs will go to those who need them. Free of charge.

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