Honoring Veterans: HPU Students Document Service Dog Training

The following press release was written by HPU students Kimmy Schwamb and Grant Cunningham regarding a service learning class in which they are involved:


 This spring, High Point University students from the School of Art and Design participated in an service learning course taught by Benita VanWinkle, assistant professor of art. The documentary photography course allowed students to work with and photograph Patriot Rovers, a non-profit service dog training facility located in High Point, North Carolina.

The students’ photographs will be showcased at the High Point Museum to the public from April 26 to July 13 in the “Serving Soldiers, Honoring Heroes” exhibit.

Students in the class spent the first part of the semester traveling to various locations to take pictures and conduct interviews. Through this process, students were able to further understand the dog training process as well as the obstacles veterans endure.

Many military veterans across the United States suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and/or traumatic brain injury. In order to aid these veterans with stress, anxiety, seizures or physical limitations, dogs are trained all across the country as service dogs at organizations like Patriot Rovers.

Army veteran and a Canine Behavioral Expert, David Cantara, founded the non-profit organization as someone who personally needed a service dog. Cantara wanted to give other veterans who are eligible for a service dog, inside and outside of the High Point community, an opportunity to have access to the help they need.

Both VanWinkle and students participating in the class agree that this project has been an extremely eye-opening experience.

It has given them the opportunity to have conversations they never thought they would have and allowed them to meet veterans from all different walks of life.

“Getting to interact with veterans was a very unique experience,” says Maddie Travell, a student in VanWinkle’s class. “Each veteran has their own unique story and we got a glimpse of each of them. We hope that by looking at the work we’ve completed, the viewer can better understand the things we’ve witnessed.”

Students also believe the project is important because the ongoing care veterans require after returning from active duty is not frequently talked about.

“The general public, including myself prior to completing this course, never really talked about the trauma that veterans can experience after their time in service,” says HPU student Kasey Ronan, who also participated in the experiential learning course. “After hearing from multiple veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress, it is entirely eye opening to see how much they have to endure. It is even more eye-opening to see how these service dogs make such a positive impact in their lives. It’s a remarkable thing to experience.”

The exhibit will be open to the general public from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. on April 26. The students will provide light refreshments and the service dogs that have been photographed will also be present.

To help with the cause, anyone can visit the Patriot Rovers website at patriotrovers.org to learn more or donate to help the organization continue training dogs for veterans.

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