'Troubled' teens hoping to change perception with the help of so - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Teens' new teachers have four legs (and one is named Gumdrop)

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They're sometimes labeled as 'troubled' teens, but these Tri-State students are working to change that perception.

All semester long, they've been spending time outside the classroom, learning some important life lessons and helping animals at the same time.

Gumdrop and Hunter, Toby and Duke, Doc and Grumpy: they all need new homes, but they'll settle for a little extra attention.

That's why the sound of a buss pulling up those Tri-State students are so welcome at It Takes A Village Canine Rescue Center.

"They just did everything. Hands on. They were great," said ITV volunteer Pamela Wilson.

Shennika Pettis is one of 16 teens who's been visiting once a week.

"We feed them, we clean up after them ,which is gross, we just make sure they have a good time, show them some love," Shennika said.

That, from a girl who didn't even like dogs a few months ago.

Now. she's literally got them eating out of the palm of her hand.

"I like sneaking the dogs treats, that's my favorite," Shennika told us. "I like seeing their faces and not being caught is actually fun."

Though they say Shennika and her classmates have been a huge help, volunteers admit they had their doubts.

"We were kind of leery of the kids coming," Wilson said. "I didn't know if they would respect me and I didn't know if they would do what I asked them to do and how I asked them to do it."

That hesitation, she says, had to do with where the students are from. The EVSC's alternative high school, AIS. The Academy for Innovative Studies.

"Our school doesn't have the best perception because many of the kids have been kicked out of normal schools," said AIS Teacher Kendra Smith. "However, when given the chance, these students can do really great things."

That's why Smith signed up to teach a brand-new community service class.

Her students are the ones who decided to help animals.

"I wanted to give them a chance to give themselves a better reputation, but then also help out the community," she said.

"I love coming out here and doing this is probably my favorite class of the year," said Shennika.

"It made me feel like I can actually learn how to work with other people. And actually help the community," said AIS student Rich Brown.

And it seems, in a way, her students and the dogs they've come to love, have something in common.

"For instance like the pitbull, people thought they were to fight. And that's how they think just because we come from alternative school, we fight, but actually we're pretty sentimental and sensitive," Shennika said.

You see it as they work, and play, they'll tackle the dirtiest of jobs.

Back in the classroom, their help takes on a different form as the students spread the word about their new friends on social media.

"It's teaching students that when you give back to the community it definitely does have an impact," Smith told 14 News.

Not only on these once neglected dogs, but on the teens themselves as well.

"It makes me feel good inside actually," Shennika said. "I just love coming out here and playing with the dogs because they need some love too."

Smith wants to continue the community service class and many of her students say they'd like to continue visiting the rescue.

If you'd like to help, click here.

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