New program to let SLO County agriculture students work with local animal sanctuary

Excerpted from the San Luis Obispo Trubune, BY LUCY PETERSON UPDATED AUGUST 15, 2023. For the full article, please click here:

A new agricultural education program will accept five SLO School District students at Lilly’s Animal Sanctuary in Arroyo Grande. Leaders for Ethics, Animals and the Planet (LEAP) announced a nationwide expansion in a news release on July 31, 2023. The program “empowers high school students to become compassionate catalysts for change by addressing leadership in ethics, animals and the planet,” according to the website.

LEAP was founded in 2022 and launched at six Northern California animal sanctuaries. Now, the program is expanding to include 25 animal sanctuaries spanning across the country after an anonymous donor pledged $150,000 in matching funds at the end of last year, according to the release.

Danielle Hanosh, co-founder of LEAP, said she is “thrilled to be given the opportunity to transform the LEAP program from a local, grassroots endeavor to a nationwide opportunity for all students.”

LEAP most recently partnered with Lilly’s Animal Sanctuary in Arroyo Grande, which will host five students from the San Luis Coastal Unified School District and the Lucia Mar Unified School District for a nine-month program this year. The program also partnered with eight other California-based animal sanctuaries, including Jameson Humane in Napa Valley and Rancho Compasión & Blackberry Creek in Nicasio, both of which participated in last year’s program. LEAP provides an alternative to other youth agricultural education programs such as 4-H and FFA.

Erika Satkoski, the owner and operator of Lilly’s Animal Sanctuary said. Satkoski taught for eight years at Pioneer Valley High School in Santa Maria, and currently substitute teaches for the Lucia Mar Unified School District in southern San Luis Obispo County.

Lilly’s Animal Sanctuary started in 2016 after Satkoski received an ewe sheep “Lilly” who was surrendered by an FFA student who decided she wanted to withdraw her animal from a Santa Barbara County auction. Animals that are entered into FFA or 4-H programs are often sent to auction and are later killed, Satkoski said. As a teacher, Satkoski said she met many students who wanted to see different outcomes for the animals they raised. “LEAP is an option for students that would rather take care of an animal and see them live and be happy,” she said. “We see animals as individuals, so we want to teach students to be compassionate to all living beings.”

Lilly’s Animal Sanctuary now operates as an education-based nonprofit and cares for over 16 large animals, such as goats, pigs and sheep, and around 25 birds — all of which are rescue animals. Many of the animals have been surrendered from animal agriculture farms or FFA and 4-H programs, Satkoski said. “Many people have never met a turkey, or even a duck, pigs, goat or sheep,” Satkoski said. “So we have them all here for people to interact with them and see how wonderful they are.” She and her husband live on the sanctuary and take care of the animals along with Noah Leventhal, lead animal wellness caregiver, in what they refer to as the “24-hour cycle of care.”

“As long as animals are here there’s always cleaning, feeding and repairing to be done,” Satkoski said. The duck pen holds several rescued ducks and turkeys at Lilly’s Animal Sanctuary in Arroyo Grande. “LEAPers will be trained in entrepreneurial skills, leadership and public speaking to effectively advocate for animals,” the news release said. “I see them as leaders,” Satkoski said of the future program participants. “They’re changing the status quo and that’s what leaders do.” “At the end of the nine-month program, students are able to complete a year-end project and compete with other participants across the country for scholarship money,” Satkoski said. The program has gotten a very positive response from high school students since its start, Satkoski said. “The circle of compassion is just rippling out,” she said.

Read the full article at:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Central Coast Vegans