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Westside elementary school class gifts training gear to DM dogs

Posted at 6:29 PM, May 21, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A fifth-grade class at Warren Elementary School is making a significant impact on the lives of military service dogs, raising more than $1,000 to purchase essential training gear.

The effort is part of their community service project in partnership with the STARBASE program, sponsored by Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Abbie Callahan's class has been participating in the program for five years.

"For our community service this year, the kids and I talked about getting equipment for our four-legged service members," Callahan said.

The funds raised will go toward training gear, which is crucial for preparing the dogs for their demanding roles.

The STARBASE program, directed by Kristine Impellizzeri here in Tucson, aims to provide fifth graders with hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education.

The program includes 25 hours of instruction, focusing on robotics, chemistry, and other scientific domains.

"They can learn more about different careers," Impellizzeri explained. "And in turn, we task those fifth graders to think of ways to give back to their community."

The students’ enthusiasm and commitment were on display Tuesday. According to student Elena Ash, the idea for purchasing the gear didn't just come from one source.

"Someone had the idea... of, well, if they are using robot dogs, what are they doing with the normal dogs?" Ash said, highlighting the curiosity and thoughtfulness driving their project.

Impellizzeri praised the program's impact on the students, noting that their mission is to motivate and ignite a passion for learning and community service.

"Our mission is truly to motivate them to get them to see their potential and provide those opportunities so they can see what they're capable of doing," she said.

The STARBASE program has been a fixture at Davis-Monthan for over 17 years, fostering a robust partnership with local schools. Tucson Unified is one of the four Tucson-area districts involved, with plans to expand the program into middle and junior high schools.

The success of this year’s fundraiser not only provides essential resources for the service dogs but also instills a sense of civic responsibility and achievement in the young students.

Eddie Celaya is a multimedia journalist at KGUN 9. Born in Tucson and raised in the Phoenix area, Eddie is a life-long Arizonan and graduate of the University of Arizona who loves the desert and mountains and hates the cold. Previously, Eddie worked in print media at the Arizona Daily Star. Share your story ideas with Eddie at, or by connecting on Facebook or Instagram.