Leaving high school is a major shift for any student, but for those with special needs, transitioning into the working world or higher education can be even more intimidating. However, one Washington high school has come up with a unique way to build their students’ confidence.

The students of the STEPS transition program, a curriculum for young adults with learning challenges, has been visiting the Humane Society of Cowlitz County every Wednesday since early February to read books to shelter cats. Each week, the students bring their favorite book and cuddle up with their feline friends to share their “tails.” The program helps build confidence in their reading abilities and promotes socialization of the animals to assist them on their journey to adoption.

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Through the program, the students are able to improve their reading and the cats get valuable playtime with friends.

56fc792b9053d.imageRoger Werth/The Daily News

With millions of homeless cats in facilities across the U.S., it is an incredible thing to be able to give a four-legged friend a better chance of adoption, while improving the life a person at the same time.

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For cats, who would otherwise spend nearly the entire day in a shelter cage, the program gives them the chance to feel what life can be like with their forever families. And for the students, reading to the animals helps bring them out of their shell and gives them something to look forward to each week.

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Amanda Davidson, STEPS job coach, told The Daily News that the program has helped her students open up. “(The students) are reading to the cats, who aren’t judging them or correcting them when they make a mistake,” she explained.

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It’s amazing that with a simple scratch on the ears, or pet under the chin, an animal can help to foster the life skills, confidence, and happiness that will help propel these young people to reach their full potential.

In-text images: Humane Society of Cowlitz County

Lead image source: Roger Werth/The Daily News