By Amanda Anderson
INDIALANTIC -- Everyone deserves a second chance, especially if their efforts are going toward a good cause.
Indialantic Elementary School students are participating in a national campaign to save animals' lives, and need the help of Brevard residents to win an educational grant through the Mutt-I-Grees "America Adopts" PSA Contest.
The third annual event is a nationwide initiative to raise awareness of the availability and desirability of shelter pets.
"My fifth- and sixth-grade students are participating this year," said Virginia Hamilton, gifted teacher at Indialantic Elementary School. "This is our 10th year participating in this kind of contest."
Although top winners of the "America Adopts" PSA Contest have already been selected, contest officials have extended an opportunity to several schools with valid entries to have a second chance at winning.
"We entered the first round to win the big prize, but we were notified that we have been given a second chance to win a smaller prize amount," Mrs. Hamilton added.
Mrs. Hamilton's students created a one-minute and 22-second-long video encouraging those thinking about adding a pet to their family to go to local shelters and adopt.
In the video, the "Canine Commandos" say that many people overlook adopting animals from the shelter due to lack of training, knowledge of where the animal came from, as well as additional factors.
"The 'Canine Commandos' need funding to continue the program to help costs with a certified trainer, materials and transportation," Mrs. Hamilton said. "We look for all kinds of ways to raise funds through grants, fundraising and donations."
These "Canine Commandos" volunteer their time to work with the dogs in shelters, teaching them how to "sit," "stay," "shake," and more. Because of their hard work, nearly half of the animals the "Canine Commandos" work with have been adopted into loving families.
Recently, the "Canine Commandos" were awarded $2,500 through the Sue Bassett Foundation. The group has also been awarded $11,500 from Iams Pet Food, was recognized by Good Morning America and Disney, and has had its efforts published in four service learning books.
This PSA reflects the essence of the Mutt-I-Grees curriculum, which is a unique approach to teaching children social, emotional and instinctual skills, as well as highlighting the unique personalities and needs of the Mutt-I-Grees. This curriculum was developed by Yale University School of the 21st Century, in collaboration with the North Shore Animal League America, and funded by the Cesar Millan Foundation. Mr. Millan is nationally known for his show, "The Dog Whisperer."
"[The students] train with South Animal Care Center in Melbourne and the Central Brevard Humane Society in Cocoa," Mrs. Hamilton said. "We train dogs that lack obedience training and are overlooked for adoption."
Mrs. Hamilton added that, by watching trainers on Animal Planet, who state that a simple five minutes per day of training, can greatly improve a dog's behavior, thus increasing the animal's chances of finding a home.
"We are currently at a 49-percent success rate," Mrs. Hamilton said.
As of press time, the Indialantic Elementary School students had earned an impressive 90 votes, but were still in need of help from the community.
The top three videos will be chosen by popular vote, with the top video winning a $1,000 grant for the school of participating students. Second and third place schools win $750 and $500, respectively.
"The contest ends June 17, and people can vote once a day, per video, per email," Mrs. Hamilton said.
To vote for Indialantic Elementary School's PSA, visit http://education.muttigrees.org/2013-second-chance-psa-contest. Voting ends June 17.