In 2010 NYMA math teacher Vicki Benton and her advisees (who were all Seniors) wanted to do something special for a community service project. They decided to raise money to sponsor a puppy to be trained as a service dog through an organization known as Puppies Behind Bars. Ms. Benton and her family had been sponsors of several dogs for Puppies Behind Bars and her advisees wanted to participate with this organization that raised dogs for military service veterans. Ms. Benton’s six advisees contacted local papers and held fund raisers to raise awareness for their service project and to raise the funds needed to sponsor a puppy. By the time of their graduation, they were proud to announce that they had met their goal and a puppy would be sponsored who would be named “Nyma”.
“Nyma”, a little black Lab puppy, was chosen to enter the Puppies Behind Bars program where she was trained as a service dog for Veterans returning from Iraq/Afghanistan with PTSD or other war-related injuries. The trainers for this program are specially selected inmates who themselves receive training to work with these puppies. Nyma’s trainer was an inmate at the Fishkill Correctional Facility, which is not far from New York Military Academy. On January 22, 2013 “Nyma” graduated from the Puppies Behind Bars program and was presented to SGT Kevin Brackney who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom. John Phillips (Dean of Academics), Michael Reagan ’13, and Ms. Benton attended the graduation ceremony and spent time with SGT Brackney and “Nyma”. SGT Brackney was very appreciative of the sponsorship of “Nyma” by Ms. Benton and her advisory group. As SGT Brackney put it: “Nyma has already made a significant difference in his life.”
Last June, “Nyma” attended the 2012 NYMA Graduation ceremony with Mrs. Gloria Gilbert-Stoga, founder and CEO of Puppies Behind Bars, who gave the commencement address.
If you are interested in learning more about Puppies Behind Bars or wish to contribute to their program, please go to www.puppiesbehindbars.com for more information.
Vicki Benton Cadet Michael Regan SGT. Kevin Brackney John Phillips
Photo courtesy of Peggy Vance.