Ashford School student’s project benefits Our Companions shelter
By Brenda Sullivan - ReminderNews
Ashford - posted Thu., Nov. 14, 2013
In the beginning, while she was excited about her project, 13-year-old Rayann Knowlton also felt a little overwhelmed.
The Ashford School eighth-grader chose, as an independent study project, to organize a food drive – pet food, that is – for Our Companions Animal Rescue.
"I’ve wanted to do something like this for a really long time, because I like animals," said Knowlton, whose pets at home include two kittens, a puppy, a dog and a goldfish.
She chose Our Companions because she’d heard about the work they do from a friend of her mother’s who works with the organization capturing and spaying/neutering feral cats.
"Rayann is part of a new program here at Ashford School," said her teacher, Jennifer Lindsay. "It is an independent study for a small group of eighth-graders. They are encouraged to find a project that they will enjoy and also learn real-world skills."
"When she came up with the idea, she first had to write a formal letter to our principal, Troy Hopkins, for permission. Then, she wrote to Our Companions explaining her project and requesting collaboration," Lindsay said. "Rayann also wrote flyers that went home to families and alerts on our K-12 [e-mail] notification service. She contacted an artist to help with the posters, and created the collection boxes. In addition to all this, Rayann wrote and delivered reminder messages during our morning announcements."
"Another skill Rayann developed is her sewing skills. Not only did she deliver food to Our Companions, but she made cat toys to deliver as well," Lindsay said.
Knowlton was happy with the enthusiastic response to the food drive, but she wasn’t sure how to handle all the donations, she said. In total, 20 bags of dry cat food, about 200 cans of canned cat food, five dog-related items and some cash were donated.
Her grandmother, Donna Molnar, came to the rescue and helped push a shopping cart from room to room, Knowlton said.
"It was difficult at the beginning, but once everything got moving, it was exciting… I liked watching the shopping cart fill up," Knowlton said. "And my mom helped me bring it all to Our Companions on my lunch period.”
Getting the word out about the project was one of the fun parts of the project, she said. With the help of a volunteer from Our Companions, who Knowlton described as an "awesome artist," she created several posters to display around the school. "One poster had a cat with lots of cans and ‘First Prize,’ another one had a cat who’s saying, ‘I have an idea,’" she said.
Knowlton ran into a little snag when it came to putting up the posters. "The walls are concrete, so the tape wouldn’t stick… but then my art teacher got some wicked, almost-Gorilla-Tape," she said, referring to a super sticky brand of tape.
Asked what advice she’d give other young people taking on a similar project, she said, "I would tell them, ‘Don’t do it alone, get help.’ My grandma helped, and without her and my mother, I wouldn’t have been as successful."
Knowlton’s project received an A-plus, she said.
Despite her love for animals, Knowlton said she’s not interested in becoming a veterinarian. "I like animals, but not giving them shots," she said. Her career choice at this point, she said, is to work with children with special needs.
What she would like to do in the near future, she said, is volunteer some of her time at Our Companions.
To learn more about services offered by Our Companions, visit www.ourcompanions.org.