[Noozhawk’s note: One in a series on Santa Barbara Partners in Education volunteers. This article is sponsored by Community West Bank, a Partners in Education President’s Council member.]
She discovered her love of both animals and reading at a young age, when her father bought her a book about kittens. Growing up, she knew she wanted to pursue a career related to animals and, in 1997, she founded the nonprofit All for Animals, which promotes humane treatment of them. Her love of reading and writing led her to author two successful books, outlining tips for maintaining healthy pets.
With Partners in Education, a local nonprofit administered by the Santa Barbara County Education Office, Lee Stevens travels from classroom to classroom promoting her passion and introducing students to her canine companion, Sandy. She teaches students many valuable lessons through reading and interaction with animals.
Lee Stevens’ All for Animals organization offers a program called “Compassion for Critters,” which promotes many positive qualities in developing children.
“Studies show that children who are taught compassion and empathy for animals at a young age will grow up to become better citizens,” she explained. “Our Compassion for Critters program helps promote good character in children through reading, storytelling and interaction with well-behaved animal companions.”
Lee Stevens’ goal is to strengthen the bond between humans and animals at a young age.
“Children have a natural curiosity and affection toward animals,” she said. “It is my job as a humane educator to nurture that relationship and help children create safe and satisfying relationships with animals that will last a lifetime.”
Lee Stevens explains how children are positively affected when they develop an understanding of animals.
“Children who learn to respect animals at a young age grow up to be kinder adults — not only to animals, but to their peers, their parents and their teachers as well,” she said.
In addition to exposing local youth to the joys of having a pet companion, Lee Stevens teaches students valuable safety lessons.
“As part of every school presentation, we practice a dog-bite prevention exercise, where we teach children how to properly approach a dog they don’t know,” she said. “I have found that volunteers who are accompanied by dogs like our canine ambassador, Sandy, a lovable Labrador retriever, have a profoundly positive effect on children.”
After her presentations, Lee Stevens surprises the students with a copy of her latest book, Animals Have Feelings, Too!
“It is our goal to give away a copy of a book about animals to every child who attends one of our humane education presentations,” she said. “Since the book ... was published in October, we have already given away nearly 1,000 copies to local elementary school children!”
Lee Stevens hopes to continue her volunteer work through Partners in Education, which has allowed her to use her particular expertise to create a positive change within the community and to show young people that their careers can align with their personal interests.
“It is my goal as an animal lover, a reader and a humane educator to get children interested in reading and instill in them an appreciation for animals and nature,” she said. “Kids who read are more likely to succeed in all aspects of their lives, and kids who are kind to animals grow up to be kinder adults, which benefits the community as a whole.”
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— Michaela Ford is a senior at Santa Barbara High School and a Santa Barbara Partners in Education intern through the Partners Job Readiness & Internship Program. Partners in Education programs are administered under the Santa Barbara County Education Office.