Students at the valley’s Open Doors alternative secondary school are helping out the Invermere Companion Animal Network (ICAN) as part of the school’s work experience program.

This is the first year the school’s work experience program has partnered with ICAN and the results so far are a success, according to ICAN volunteers and the students participating in the program.

I love it,” said Open Doors Grade 12 student Andrew Strain. “We socialize the cats, make sure they feel loved and do basic maintenance of the place.”

A total of 10 Open Doors students are participating in the work experience program with ICAN, helping look after animals and doing other tasks at ICAN’s Rescue and Adoption Facility in Athalmer. The large number of students in the program requires they do shifts of three or four at a time on Mondays and Thursdays.

Andrew has been enjoying the experience so much that he’s started voluntarily coming to help out at the facility in his spare time on Fridays.

It’s been really great. It’s always fun to come back each week and see your favourite cat; there’s really nothing like hanging out with cats,” said Open Doors Grade 12 student Jeremy Senecal, adding the students in the program are trying to convince Open Doors administration to adopt a cat to live at the school.

Each cat has its own personality and you really get to know them” said Andrew.

Both students said Cherry has become their favourite cat at the facility.

It’s going really great,” said ICAN volunteer Sylvia Schulz. “(The students) are a tremendous help getting the chores done and the cats get so much more socializing on the days when they are here. This program is a great way to get the students out in the community.”

ICAN volunteer and Open Doors teacher Megan Stanbury came up with the idea of ICAN partnering with Open Doors’ work experience program while bringing her daughter to the monthly ICAN Kids Club program. Seeing how much her young daughter clearly enjoyed being at ICAN, Stanbury realized that teenagers could benefit from ICAN as much as the younger kids to whom the Kids Club caters.

I thought what better way to combine work experience, volunteering and animal therapy, and it’s clear they (the Open Doors students) sure like coming,” said Ms. Stanbury. “It’s productive and it’s good for the cats.”

The 10 Open Doors students started going to ICAN as part of the work experience program in late October and will continue through the school year until June.