Riverhead Middle School launches animal rescue club

Emily Cheverino teaches seventh-grade English Language Arts at Riverhead Middle School. She’s also been an animal rescue advocate and volunteer for as long as she can remember.

“I knew that when I became a teacher, I wanted to somehow incorporate that passion into my career,” she said.

She brought that full circle with the launching of the school’s new Animal Rescue Club. The popular community service group was started this fall.

Ms. Cheverino said about 50 students came to their first meeting and she ended up capping weekly attendance at 25 students. Her hope is to recruit a co-adviser for the next school year to allow for more students to participate. 

“Not every student comes to every meeting because sometimes they have sports or other clubs to attend,” she said. “No matter what, there’s always an opportunity for whoever wants to come.”

The club meets every other Thursday after school. Members are also volunteering with the Southampton Animal Shelter. 

Recently, the shelter featured the student club in an Instagram post for Giving Tuesday. 

“We are overjoyed by the outpouring of support from our community,” shelter officials wrote.

During the club’s first meeting, students wrote letters encouraging community members to adopt dogs and cats from the shelter. In November, they organized a Thanksgiving pet food drive, delivering boxes of donations to the Hampton Bays shelter on Giving Tuesday.

Flyers for the drive were sent out across the whole district, according to Ms. Cheverino, who she said she was “blown away with how many donations we got.”

“We probably got about 12 bags of dog food, various different types of treats, a lot of clothes. I would say maybe like five boxes full of donations,” she said.

This month, club members are holding a Holiday Animal Shelter Donation Drive. They’re collecting pet food, pet beds, dog and cat toys, leashes and collars as well as other supplies for the shelter.

Club members took their first field trip to the Southampton Animal Shelter Dec. 18. They met with staff and animal trainers and learned more about working in the shelter. They also learned how to keep pets out of the shelter system. 

The field trip included opportunities to socialize with dogs and cats and spend time with the furry friends that their donations have helped.

“As the club continues throughout the years, I really hope to partner with more shelters throughout the area — like Kent Shelter and North Fork Animal Welfare League,” Ms. Cheverino said. “I’m hoping to expand it more so that when we do these donation drives, we can spread the wealth a little bit and also get more opportunities for them to come here to educate the students.”

Club member Jackson Burgess has three dogs — a pitbull mix, a Chihuahua mix and a Yorkie. They are all rescues.

“I’ve always had an interest in animals, and I’ve always loved going to shelters and seeing all the animals and helping them out,” he said.

Jackson described it as “the best club.” 

“My favorite part is when we do donations because I know that all this is going to animals and helping them out,” he said.

Jackson also enjoys when the presenters bring animals to the school and teach club members about what they do at the shelters as well as how to help.

Ms. Cheverino views the club as another opportunity to make a positive change in the community.

“I’m hoping to make somewhat of a tiny bit of a difference, not only in getting more students involved in clubs and educating them — but to make a difference in their community as well,” she said.