Volunteer Amy Huang
An Extraordinary VOLUN-TEEN
Amy Huang, part of the Volun-TEEN program at North Shore Animal League America, didn’t just put in her six months of time for high school service credits, she loved every minute while she was here with the animals. She loved it so much that she continued to volunteer past her initial commitment and asked to conduct her senior experience here as well.
“My love for animals has influenced me greatly in my career choice. Combining my love for biology and animals, I’m looking to possibly work as a veterinarian in the future,” said Amy. “I want to work with animals and find a job I have a passion for. I asked to conduct my senior experience at Animal League America so I can observe the duties of medical professionals while helping with the animals.” Unfortunately, when the COVID-19 health crisis began, she had only completed three shifts with the shelter medical team — she hopes to be able to continue soon.
Amy had originally learned about our volunteer program through her cousin who’d been a volunteer here when he was in high school. So she applied to the Volun-TEEN program in 2018 and was accepted. “I hoped to learn more about dogs and cats,” she stated. “I always saw animal rescues on television and wanted to be part of an organization with this as part of its mission.”
Amy’s group of teens began their volunteer service with several weeks of classes and hands-on learning taught by staff members and volunteer team leaders. At the beginning of their experience, Amy and two other young women worked together spending half their shift assisting with puppies and the other half with kittens or cats.
“I loved being a part of the Volun-TEEN program and still do,” said Amy “When I first started, there were two other girls volunteering at the same time slot like me and we bonded really fast through our interactions. It really built up my ability to work in a team.”
Even though she’s always had dogs at home, Amy found working with the puppies a bit challenging at the beginning. She really enjoyed being behind the scenes so she could socialize the puppies and learn more about their body language. “The most difficult part for me was just being able to handle a really energetic pup by myself and just being able to handle the mess they made,” laughed Amy. “I had a hard time trying to hold a really playful pup safely. It wasn’t until I gained some more experience that I truly got used to them.”
Her pet at home is an eight-year-old Cocker Spaniel named Jenny. Jenny loves going outside and is still very energetic. On their walks, Amy has to be ready for when Jenny sees a squirrel or a bird because “she stares for a long time and then sprints after them.” The classes at Animal League America have helped her learn a lot more about animals. She gained knowledge in how to “treat your animals at home” and “what’s good for your dog and how to train a dog properly.”
When her two fellow Volun-TEENS finished their commitment and went off to college, Amy stayed on. She moved to taking care of the cats and often worked with an adult volunteer named Peggy in the Cat Habitat. Then she would go to the Lewyt’s ARK and assist with the felines upstairs. She fed them, gave them fresh water, cleaned their cages, and showered them with love and attention.
“Amy has been an absolute delight to work with and get to know. When she first began, she was very soft spoken, but she was extremely gentle and skilled with our rescue pets.” stated Victoria Gravina, Senior Volunteer Manager at Animal League America. “As a returning Volun-TEEN, Amy became a peer leader for our newest group. To see her in action has been incredible! She’s grown into a motivating and empathetic role model and leader.”
One of Amy’s most rewarding experiences while she has been here was working with a cat named Shadow who, at first, would just hide under his blanket. She enjoys being part of the process of getting the cats more comfortable when they first come in from rescue and “witnessing how they come out of their shells and start trusting people again.”
She even wrote about a cat named Zenith in her essay for her college applications. When she first met her, Zenith didn’t want to be pet. Every week, she would feed her and after a while she came to know Amy and let her pet her. “She really came to trust me,” she declared. “We’d play with the wand toys together. She would even chase after the broom when I swept or my shoes!”
The most challenging part of volunteering for Amy is “letting the animals go.” When you’ve been with the same animals for weeks or months and they get adopted, you don’t always get to see them again the next time you come in to volunteer. “You are happy but sad at the same time,” she sighed.
She now includes working in Bianca’s Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center (BFF) as part of her regular shift. She does cleaning behind the scenes and then sometimes is able to help with adoptions. She likes being in the Julia Belle Mason room that showcases senior cats. She’ll sit with them and bring them some mackerel, tuna, or salmon as a treat.
“BFF is so pretty. The cats seem much more comfortable. They have space above in each room if they don’t want to be on the floor so they feel safe and in control,” said Amy. “People can sit down and relax and wait for the cats to come to them so they can play with them.”
Amy has applied to several state universities in New York and will be graduating soon. She hopes to major in biology. She’ll miss coming in week after week and helping our rescue pets. “Being here is relaxing in a way. I’m able to socialize with animals and it’s very calming,” she stated. “I love being with all of them.”
About the Volun-TEEN Program
In 2017, North Shore Animal League America created the Volun-TEEN program for high school students, ages 16-18 years old. Through participation in this program, teenage volunteers quickly learn that the work they’re doing is meaningful for our animals and can also have an impact on their own lives by improving work ethic and self-esteem, providing a service learning experience, and encouraging empathy and responsibility. The Volun-TEENs connect to our rescue pets, our adopters, each other, and most importantly, themselves.
If you’d like to learn more about the Volunteer Program and available opportunities visit animalleague.org/volunteer.