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“What We Are Constantly Working Towards”: How Ohio State Students are Leaving Their Legacy After Graduation

    “I’m not sure there’s many words that can explain the feeling of seeing a foster find their place, and watching Rexy meet and work alongside his boy was truly one of the most incredible feelings.” Kristina Bauer is a volunteer with 4 Paws for Ability as a member of 4 Paws at Ohio State, a campus-based group of 4 Paws fosters and volunteer trainers. 

    Currently, the group of nearly 150 student volunteers has 48 service dogs in training socializing on-campus with them day in and day out, all with one goal in mind; seeing their dog provide safety and love to a child or veteran one day.

    “It’s amazing seeing a graduating pup fit so seamlessly into a new team, watching hours of hard puppy work pay off, and seeing full circle what the nights training on campus was for,” Kristina says.

    For college students, time can be limited and lives can be hectic, but Kerry Johnson says it’s worth it in the end. “One thing that motivates me to volunteer while in college is knowing that we are making a difference for the future that these service dogs are going to. We love getting to hear the stories of the amazing things they do.”

    Now, nearly a decade after the first 4 Paws at Ohio State dog graduated, the group is sponsoring the Apricot Class and ensuring a brighter future for so many families, albeit a bittersweet day for our volunteers.

    4 Paws at Ohio State volunteer, Abriella Gillespie, says “I’ve attended 3 graduations and for Jenga’s graduation, she both broke my heart and told me she’d be okay all in one shot. At graduation, she snuggled in to give me a hug and then so confidently walked to the car with her family. Although the saddest part of graduation is seeing them leave, it’s also the most rewarding feeling and goes to show that all of what we work for is worth it to see that moment with their kid.”

    It’s that moment that Bauer says motivated 4 Paws at Ohio State to raise the donations to sponsor the 2024 Apricot Class. “As fundraising chair, I personally found sponsoring a 4 Paws graduation to be a great opportunity for our members to see the impact of what we all are constantly working towards. Many of our members may not have the opportunity to see the end goal of watching a foster graduate and it gives more members the opportunity to witness and see the impact of graduation and the mission 4 Paws holds.”

    With semesters nearing an end and lives set to change, the Apricot Class graduation might be the last graduation for many of our college seniors, but the legacy they’ve created as college volunteers continues.

    “I hope that our college organization continues to expand in the future. 4 Paws truly is what you make it as a volunteer, so I hope that more students make the most of their time. I am proud of the transformations I have been able to witness in our club and to have been a part of something so much bigger than myself where I got to meet some incredible people,” Abriella says. “I will always cherish my memories in the club, especially with graduation quickly approaching.”