Samantha Heins and her classmates sat anxiously in a room waiting to be lectured by their principal about bullying.
Instead, a 6-foot-tall Scooby-Doo and others walked in holding balloons and a large $2,500 check.
Heins was among the 13 Eastern Suffolk BOCES students told Tuesday they had won first place in the 3rd annual Mutt-i-grees “America Adopts” National PSA Contest.
The program tasks students in grades 6-12 with creating an ad campaign to make a difference in the lives of shelter pets, which they call “Mutt-i-grees.”
Scooby-Doo, a mascot for Mutt-i-grees, came to cheer on the students for their accomplishment.
It took Heins, a junior at Islip High School studying animal science at the technical school, a few minutes to grasp what had happened, but once she realized she couldn’t stop smiling.
“We were all so surprised,” said Heins, 16, of Islip. “We thought we were learning about bullying, but then Scooby-Doo came in.”
Representatives from contest sponsors North Shore Animal League and Publishers Clearing House joined Scooby to present an educational grant to the animal science program at ESBOCES' Brookhaven Technical Center in Bellport.
Kristy Breen, Mutt-i-grees outreach assistant for the North Shore Animal League in Port Washington, said the purpose of the contest is to raise awareness of the availability and desirability of shelter pets.
“The contest aims to raise awareness of the availability of Mutt-i-grees and to end euthanasia,” said Breen, 35, of Glen Cove. “Four million mutts are killed each year.”
The 13 entries submitted from around the country were judged by a panel of animal science experts based on creativity, originality, sincerity and persuasiveness.
TV production students Connor Landhauser and Jani Gruen created the music, and filmed and edited the PSA. Eleven animal science students wrote the script, recorded voice overs and provided photographs for the video, which explored common myths about shelter dogs.
“A lot of people don’t like mutts or shelter animals, so we wanted to inform the public that not all the myths about mutts are true,” Heins said.
In the PSA, students raise questions people ask such as, “Why should I get a shelter pet if they’re all sick?” and “Why should I get a mutt, I don’t want someone else’s problem?” The PSA later answers, ‘Why get a mutt? Because you never know who’s going to rescue who.”
Connor Landhauser, a junior at West Islip High School studying TV production at Eastern Suffolk BOCES, said he was surprised, but pleased, the PSA won.
“We want people to realize that mutts are like any other dog,” Landhauser, 16, of West Islip. “Families should go to shelters instead of breeders so mutts can have a family to go to and a home.”
TV production teacher Mark Deedy was thrilled to hear that, even under a tight deadline, the students’ work excelled.
“We heard about the contest late and only had a week to put together a minute and half PSA, but these students made it happen,” said Deedy, 33, of Center Moriches. “I’m so proud of all of them. With the amount of work they put into it, they deserved to win.”
For more information on Mutt-i-grees, visit education.muttigrees.org.