This incredible teacher at Joseph C. Caruso Elementary School is teaching her class some real life skills and it's benefiting our animal community.

(Photo courtesy of teacher Barbara Leary)

The students lucky enough to have Ms. Leary this school year began this past September by collecting pet items for animals affected by the hurricanes.

They also began their monthly Read to a Therapy program with the MCSPCA therapy dogs, Wynnie, Jake, Trixie and Sophie.

In October, a few of the students, along with Ms. Leary, visited the MCSPCA and donated dog and cat supplies.

On October 30th, several students met me at the MCSPCA to participate in the shelter’s therapy dog testing. Students actively participated in this important testing.

Thier first fundraising project of the school year began with a “barkery” in November. Students researched various shelter animals and police dogs. Next, they decided on what pet items to sell. After a class vote, students decided to call their barkery "All Paws on Deck Barkery." Most items were sold for 50-cents. There was a survey station, where kids created questions for their potential store customers. The questions focused around what merchandise future customers would prefer to buy. The kids offered a gift-wrapping station as well. Officers Mockus and Haley, from the Monmouth Sheriff’s K-9 Unit, visited the barkery as well, much to the delight of students, staff and families. Students raised over $1,200 during All Paws on Deck Barkery.

(Photo courtesy of Barbara Leary)

The students also went to Texas Roadhouse in Holmdel twice (including last night) to sell raffle tickets to win a dinner for two, advertise animals for adoption and share reasons why we should be helping police dogs. Officers Kroeper, Skye and Gunner joined in. Sheriff officers Irizzary and Aretino have come out to events to show their support, as have MCSPCA volunteers.

Students used some of the funds they collected to purchase holiday toys for the shelter animals and treats for the police dogs.

In December the class went to Boscov’s after school and wrapped customers’ gifts for donations. Officer Kroeper, along with Gunner Skye, joined in to show their support. Kim Brush, a MCSPCA volunteer, also joined in with her therapy dogs Wynnie and Jake. Those amazing students raised $150 that night!

But one of Mrs. Leary's biggest fundraising endeavors involves students creating and opening up their own philanthropic department store in the classroom. Students will be opening up They Have Paws, We Help Their Cause to benefit the MCSPCA and the Monmouth County Sheriff’s K-9 Unit from February 3rd - February 6th. The store will be open to the public with extended hours on Tuesday February 4th, from 5-7PM.

(Photo courtesy of teacher Barbara Leary)

Back in November, during a writing lesson, students collaboratively created a persuasive letter to solicit donations and support from local businesses. Students signed each letter and addressed every envelope before mailing their letters.

Students also completed job applications for their store, They Have Paws, We Help Their Cause, and went through an interviewing process. Once hired, students began pricing donations and setting up their store. It is a student-run store. Students make all of the decisions, along with teacher's guidance. Positions include cashiers, baggers stock, security, managers, personal shoppers, and salespeople. Students create their work schedules, persuasive advertisements and keep track of all donations. All money will be donated to the MCSPCA and the K-9 Unit. Students will also write personalized thank you letters to all business who are generous enough to donate. Each year, more and more businesses donate to this worthy cause.

Some of the generous businesses they have received support from so far are Applebee’s in Middletown, The Lincroft Marriot, Kartrite Indoor Waterpark, Party Fair in Middletown, Camp Bow Wow in Eatontown, Seastreak Ferry and Trader Joe’s.

There will be a raffle station at They Have Paws, We Help Their Cause as well. All tickets will be $1.00. Customers can take a chance to win signed posters from the NY Giants and Jets, free night stays at hotels, Staten Island Yankees tickets, six round trip tickets on the Seastreak Ferry and free meals to local restaurants.

(Photo from Barbara Leary)

Students will be opening up a third business this year also. Their final business will be to open an Italian restaurant in the school cafeteria. Their restaurant will be open after school, from 6:00-8:00PM, for dinner on May 18th.

I have yet to see a teacher go the extra mile in a way that this one has. The skills her students have learned, and continue to learn each year, will serve them for their entire lives. How many fourth graders finish the school year with a legitimate resume?!

Special thanks to another teacher, Nicole Miragliotta, for helping out this year, too!