STATESBORO —On Wednesday Oct. 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Georgia Southern’s STEP (Service Dog Training and Education Program) organization tabled outside of Russell Union, as a part of their Kisses from Caspar event.

STEP (Service Dog Training and Education Program) seeks to inform the community of the laws surrounding service animals, their purpose and importance and how to behave toward assistance animals and their handlers.

There were bandanas, shirts and baked goods for sale along with members ready to speak to those interested in working with service dogs.

All proceeds benefited the Southeastern Guide Dogs Walkathon,  a 3K walk that serves as a fundraiser that helps Southeastern Guide Dogs breed, raise, train and match their dogs with people who have vision loss, veterans with disabilities and children with significant challenges such as vision loss or the loss of a parent in the military.

Jennifer Willman, a junior biology major, tabled with STEP and said that awareness was important.

“We try to make the student body aware of service dogs and interactions with the, what you can and cannot do,” Wilman said. 

STEP has general body meetings bi-weekly on Wednesdays, in RU 2084 at 6:30 p.m.

Chevelle Russell-Merchant, a member of STEP, said she put her two interests together and found a place in STEP.

“My major is psychology, so I would like to help people and I also love dogs so I put the two together,” Russell-Merchant said. “I’m helping dogs and training them so they can help people.”

STEP member Micah Rice also spoke on the organization. 

“The fact that [STEP] is able to educate everybody on campus about service animals and their purpose.  There are a lot of people that don’t don’t know certain rules and things about service dogs. It’s just a very good learning experience,” Rice said.

Leanna Eibson, a freshman biology student, is a sitter with STEP, and said she joined the program because she fell in love. 

“I was just walking by one day and saw the dogs and fell in love and it’s always been something I wanted to do growing up, to be a guide-dog trainer or service-dog trainer,” Eibson said.

Tatiana Joseph-Saunders, The George-Anne News Reporter, gaeditor@georgiasouthern.edu 

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