CARE Grant Causes “Llama Takeover” at Valley High School

Michael Utsumi, Funding & Programs Coordinator
May 6, 2019

We are here to illustrate another benefit from the Dublin Partners in Education CARE Grant program. Last November, the DPIE board of directors approved a motion to award a grant in the amount of $10,000 to each school within the Dublin Unified School District. The name of the grant is the acronym for the four DPIE pillars of service: Career & College Exploration, Arts Education, Resources for Educators and Education Enrichment.

VHS Students Feeds llama

Valley High School student shows her trust in feeding a llama a carrot.

The Valley campus houses both the continuation high school and the Transition Program. Transition supports students with some level of developmental disabilities and is a unique group that includes students from age 18-22. In this daily program, they learn life skills including but not limited to budgeting, vocational skills, meal planning and physical fitness.

So, in the true form of partnership, Valley High School determined that a campus wide event would benefit everyone. Lead Secretary Stacy Bennett hatched the idea to invite Llamas of Circle Home of Sonora to the campus. On Thursday, April 25th, they delivered four llamas that have been trained for therapeutic and educational purposes. It has been long believed and confirmed in studies that the presence of an animal in a therapy or intervention program reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and releases happiness and relaxation. One systematic review found that Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) led to improvements for all psychosocial outcomes – including cognitive, behavioral and social/emotional components.

Students pet llamas at VHS

Valley High School students enjoy a little llama therapy.

Over a two-hour period, the students were led in small groups to the grassy common area. Once there, they were free to interact, brush or feed any of the four llamas. Overall, the reactions were what one might expect in a first-time exposure to this type of animal. We reached out to Transition teacher Bree LeMoine and some of her students for their insights.

DPIE: What was the benefit for your students in interacting with the llamas?

LeMoine: “When my students were in the presence of the llamas, their minds appeared to be at peace from all the extraneous stressors they face each day. They were completely present in the moment and for once, problems seemed inconsequential and anxieties vanished.”
“Some of my students who have sensory issues voluntarily approached and interacted with the animals. I was pleasantly surprised to witness them stroking their fur and noting how soft they were. The calmness of the animals allowed even the most fearful students to approach. The presence of animals is so important for the well-being of our students.”

DPIE: To the students, as a result of this event, what did you learn about llamas?

"I was surprised how tall they were. I thought they would be shorter." - Matthew Guido

"When I first looked at them, I was kind of scared, but once I touched Amigo my anxiety went away." - Jazmin Batts-Brooks

"I think our teacher would have spent all day with them if she could have." - Tania Garcia

"They are nice animals and they are hairy. It felt exciting to be with the llamas." - Inigo Romero-Salas

Students brush llama

Valley High School student grooms llama.

Even for a couple of hours, it felt like we were in Peru or Bolivia. In reality, we were on the Valley High School campus where the students were exposed to a wonderful and peaceful experience. Stacy Bennett discovered this opportunity and DPIE was pleased to help provide funding for it.