Mitchell Elementary School students welcome 2 dogs to campus to provide social, emotional support

GARDEN GROVE, Calif (KABC) -- Emotional support animals have been used for decades to help those dealing with high levels of stress and anxiety. Now, a local elementary school is using some puppy power to help students in need of support.

Students at Mitchell Elementary School officially welcomed two new faces to their campus.

Misha and Nellie are there to provide social and emotional support.

Principal Carrie Bostick said children need ways to process anxiety and stress, especially after the way COVID-19 changed life.

"Families went through very traumatic times and the students were there for that so it really is a great need for mental health support and for awareness on the students' part as well," Bostick said.

In an assembly this week, the school announced Misha and Nellie are part of a collaboration between the Garden Grove Unified School District and the city's police department.

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Rocky, a Labrador retriever, is helping inmates and staff at Ventura County Jail as the county's first emotional support-therapeutic K-9.

Misha, born in Russia and raised in Ukraine, lives with Resource School Officer Patrick Julienne.

Julienne's teenage daughter suggested her dad bring a support dog with him to his campus visits, saying the counselor at her high school does it.

Liking the idea, Julienne brought his colleagues Derek Link and Nellie, originally trained as a guide dog, onboard and the program was born, funded by the school district's new John Reynolds Youth Support Canine Foundation.

This, alongside other resources, gives students and their families healthy outlets.

"We are very excited as a district to continue to build and sustain our social-emotional and mental health supports for our students and families," Student Service Director Baldwin Pedraza said. "It includes additional positions such as school social workers and mental health specialists to help and provide education and direct services, preventive care and intervention services for students and families."

The two new furry friends have already made an impact at the school, comforting students after the loss of one of their classmates earlier this year.

Their snuggles set to continue as they make their way from campus to campus, giving children and staff a break from reality.

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