WILLIAMSTON, Mich. — As schools continue to find ways to enhance safety measures, several are finding unique ways to do so.
Williamston Community Schools is one of them and recently welcomed a new team of two who not only increase safety but also boosts well being in the hallways.
Gemini and handler Serenity Even walk the hallways of the district, but they're not there for a lesson in the classroom.
“We work as a detection dog team and also to provide social and emotional support for the students," Even said. "So we're working throughout the day to provide safety and security for these kids.”
Superintendent Adam Spina said the district has been working to enhance both security and emotional well being.
“When we saw this opportunity being employed effectively at other school districts on the east side of the state primarily, it was something that really sparked our interest,” Spina said.
The district found Even and Gemini, who are equipped to help with both of those concerns.
"We were able to take advantage of state categorical funding for student mental health as well as a very generous private donation," Spina said. "Combining those two resources together, we were able to get the dog team implemented this year, which was fantastic, much sooner than I had anticipated.”
The duo is part of the Elite Detection K9 program based out of Auburn Hills.
“Training starts really early on with exposure, building their environmental skills, as well as their social skills, and then, it continues on to where we start to teach them their scent training, and they're sent specific training teaching them what scents to value,” Even said. "Dogs are invaluable as far as being able to be a deterrent. There really isn't anything better as far as reliability, cost effectiveness and being proactive and being preventative."
Gemini is trained to detect firearms and other potential threats if they are present in the schools.
“We are scanning the hallways, scanning athletic areas, cafeterias, any places that students are present throughout the day just to make sure that we're deterring any potential threats, and we're being a proactive solution,” Even said.
She also provides emotional support for staff and students during passing and class time.
"With the situation at MSU that occurred, we had students and staff who needed some emotional support due to the district's close proximity and close connections to Michigan State in a lot of different ways," Spina said. "Just having Gemini in the buildings that we have, for students that needed that emotional support that Gemini can provide, as well as that extra layer of security that just made students staff and parents feel more comfortable coming back into a school environment, I couldn't speak highly enough about the positive impact that had.”
So during the day you can find the duo doing their job.
"With a team like me and Gemini, we're in the schools full time, versus coming in to do random searches," Even said. "We're here all day, every day, boots on the ground, making sure that we're helping to keep these kids safe."
Providing an extra source of safety and lighting up the hallways.
“It's been really one of the happiest moments of the year, just watching the joy that having the dog that can provide that resource brings for our staff and our students," Spina said.
But after hours, she gets to have some fun too.
"She's a big personality outside of this," Even said. "So we like to take hikes, she likes to play with my dogs and she's very playful. So she's always anything that could be a toy she's excited about."
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