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Doggy-treat recipe helps to make students 'self-sufficient'

| Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
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Quaker Valley Middle School student Doug Balsley and special education support teacher Kaitlyn Cerilli work to create dog treats during a class in November 2013. The treats are part of a fundraiser for the class.
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Quaker Valley Middle School student Jayne Mayes works to create dog treats during a class in November 2013. The treats are part of a fundraiser for the class.
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Quaker Valley Middle School student Danny Barness and special education support teacher Kaitlyn Cerilli work to create dog treats during a class in November 2013. The treats are part of a fundraiser for the class.
Submitted
Quaker Valley Middle School student Danny Barness works to create dog treats during a class in November 2013. The treats are part of a fundraiser for the class.

What eventually will become a special treat for dogs is part of a learning process for some Quaker Valley Middle School students.

Under the supervision of special-education teacher Jason Harrison, seven students in grades six through eight are making a variety of dog treats as part of a fundraising effort for their class.

“It's getting the students to put into practice what they've been learning,” he said.

The children are life-skills students with various educational challenges, ranging from Down syndrome to acute forms of autism, district spokeswoman Tina Vojtko said.

From purchasing ingredients to packaging, students are responsible for every aspect of the production.

For a portion of the last several weeks, the students spent time baking, packing and delivering orders to middle school staff members, Harrison said.

Nearly 100 dozen orders were sold over the last few weeks, he said.

“We get so much support,” Harrison said.

Money from the sale of the treats will help buy supplies for other fundraising efforts and go toward making gifts for the parents of the children, he said.

A previous fundraiser helped the students raise enough money to visit Pittsburgh's Station Square.

“We bought ourselves lunch, did the incline, paid for the bus,” Harrison said. “We paid for our own day out on the town.”

Initial money from the school helped support the idea last school year, he said.

“We're becoming self-sufficient,” Harrison said. “Now that we've made money, we're buying our own ingredients.”

Harrison said the project is important for his class.

“The kids get a lot out of it,” he said. “They're seeing something through from start to finish.

“It's definitely a sense of pride for them. It allows them to connect with others, as well.”

Harrison said he thinks the project could be a lot bigger if students expanded beyond a customer base of middle school staff, but he doesn't want to do that.

“We're happy keeping it small,” he said. “It takes time and it does take time away from academics.

“I have a feeling we could have five ovens and bake full time from the support we'd receive.”

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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