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Pet Therapy Helps RCSJ Students De-Stress

12/18/2019

Rowan College of South Jersey’s (RCSJ) Alpha Beta Gamma (ABG) Honor Society – Gamma Phi Chapter partnered with the Center for Counseling and Wellness Services to host “PAWS for People” on Thursday, Dec. 5, for a holiday de-stress event.

Five highly-trained and certified four-legged friends, and one bunny, joined students and faculty in the lobby of the Business and Corporate Center to give students a break from school stress by interacting with the animals.  Pet Therapy has been scientifically proven to aide in alleviating stress with significant benefits, both physically and mentally.  The most common benefits include providing comfort, lowering blood pressure, decreased anxiety and improving cardiovascular health.  Dr. Lois Lawson-Briddell, director of the Center for Counseling and Wellness Services, worked with Business Instructor Danielle Morganti, and members of the ABG Honor Society, to make the event possible. 

“We really wanted to inform people about the business program here at RCSJ, along with our honor society, and the Center,” said Natalia Berardelli, a business student and ABG member.  “Holding it here provides students and faculty with a moment to decompress, while also learning more about the business major, our business-oriented honor society and what the Center for Counseling and Wellness Services provides.”

As final exams and the end of the semester approach, students visited the Business and Corporate Center to de-stress with the animals and chat with their handlers.  Everyone in attendance had a chance to play with the friendly pets, and hold the bunny as well.  Lucy, a RCSJ game design student, commutes to the College from Cherry Hill.  As she sat petting Rex, a 9-year-old German Shepherd, she talked about puppies, stress and school. 

“It really helps a lot honestly. Coming here gave me a chance to take my mind off of everything I have going on with finals and school, and really reduced my stress — even for a little bit,” she said. Other students gathered around Rex, agreed, even stating that they had been looking forward to coming.

“We wanted to provide therapy to our College’s students with some of our business students here to help assist, while also bringing awareness about the services that are available to students at the Center for Counseling and Wellness Service,” said Lawson-Briddell, who was excited to meet the animals and talk to students about the Wellness Center.

One of the pets, Bella, a youthful 11-year-old Yorkie, plays an especially important role for her owner, Desiree.  Desiree, a RCSJ student, is aspiring to become a veterinarian and has a medical condition that comes with a variety of side effects, one of which being seizures.  Bella, a trained service dog, has been with Desiree her entire life and is trained to bark when she senses that she is going to have a seizure.

“Having Bella is nice because she helps others understand that not all service dogs have to be big, and she breaks the ice in class with other students,” said Desiree, who recalled a time when Bella indicated that she sensed something unusual just hours before she had a seizure.

The Center for Counseling and Wellness Services encourages students during stressful times in their academic, personal or professional lives to visit the Wellness Center so that they can develop effective coping strategies.  All services provided to currently enrolled students are free, private and confidential.

For more information about counseling services, visit RCSJ.edu/gc/CWS, call 856-464-5236, or email counselingandwellness@rcsj.edu.

The ABG Honor Society is an international business society established at two-year colleges to encourage and recognize scholarship among students studying in the field.  The ABG Honor Society is open to RCSJ students in the Business Studies Division. Donations raised by the honor society event benefit PAWS for People, a non-profit organization.

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