Announcing the 2018 Alert1 Student for Seniors Scholarship Winner

Hannah McGee Alert1 2018 Scholarship Winner

One of our favorite times of year is when we get to award our Alert1 Student for Seniors scholarship. Each year we ask our high school and college applicants to reflect on their experiences with the older adults in their lives. This year we asked:

  1.  What is your experience with seniors?
  2. What is the most important lesson you've learned from seniors?
  3. How will you help seniors in your chosen career?

We loved hearing all of the stories that everyone sent in. We were excited to see so many entries demonstrating how many of today’s youth are dedicated to working with older adults.

This year, we received nearly 800 submissions! And out of all of those entries, we are excited to announce our winner of the Alert1’s 2018 Student for Seniors Scholarship: Hannah McGee!

Meet Hannah

Hannah McGee is our 2018 scholarship winner! She is attending the Bergin University of Canine Studies in Penngrove, CA. Originally from Texas, she is working on her AS in Business and Companion Dog Studies and BS in Canine Studies. We asked Hannah to tell us all a little about herself:

“I have aspired to be a dog trainer for as long as I can remember. In pursuit of my professional goals, this past year I earned my AS in Assistance Dog Education from Bergin College of Canine Studies. I will be starting the bachelor’s program at Bergin College to earn a BS in Cynology (Canine Sciences) and am in the process of earning my Dog Training and Behaviorist certifications from the Certified Council for Professional Dog Trainers. My work with dogs has extended outside the training room to helping train dogs for people with disabilities and veterans with PTSD. I have also assisted in training classes at a local detention center where we teach inmates how to train puppies through patience and compassion. It is my goal to continue to build bonds between people and dogs, throughout my career, and to find new and innovative ways that dogs can help the people who need them.”


We love that Hannah is working with service dogs. We all love our canine friends, and they can provide an incredible amount of assistance to seniors and anyone who needs special help, regardless of their age.

We appreciate that Hannah took the time to tell us her story. We especially love that in her story she shares how she grew to appreciate the seniors in her life. We are proud to support Hannah in her journey of bringing knowledge, joy, and canine companionship to seniors. Hannah, we look forward to seeing where your journey takes you!

Below is Hannah’s story and her winning answers. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!


What is your experience with seniors?

“Dog training has always been a passion of mine and I have always looked for ways to use this passion to help others. Over the past five years, I have trained two of my personal dogs as certified therapy dogs and have frequently visited local nursing homes to bring joy to the residents and to help get some residents more active.  My dogs and I visit each resident who wants to meet the dogs and we often escort residents who are getting their exercise, by walking around the facility. I enjoy helping the residents learn basic dog obedience commands and tricks. Seeing the joy in their faces, when my dogs respond to their directives is very rewarding for both me and the older adult. I also appreciate talking with the residents and hearing their stories, often inspired by my dogs. When the residents meet my dogs, they are often reminded of their past dogs and tell compelling stories from their childhoods and lives.”


What's the most important lesson you’ve learned from seniors?

“Before I began volunteering at nursing homes with my dogs, I never really thought about senior citizens, other than my grandparents. Hearing the stories from the many seniors that I have met has given me a new outlook on the lives of the elderly and they have inspired me to continue my volunteer work with that demographic. I now see that older adults have had long, interesting lives and have a lot of knowledge and experience to share. They should be taken care of and not forgotten, as they age. Volunteering with the population has also increased my knowledge about how both therapy dogs and service dogs can be of benefit to older adults. Therapy dogs can help older adults connect with memories, emotions, and in social environments. A nursing home resident who does not like to socialize with other people living in the facility may perk up and hold whole conversations with therapy dogs or with others, with a therapy dog present. Some people who live in nursing homes had to leave their pets behind or rehome them. Therapy dogs, in this setting, help the seniors recollect memories and remind them of the bonds they had with their pets, throughout their lives. Likewise, service dogs may fill an emotional or physical need for some seniors, in areas like depression, PTSD, stroke recovery and diabetes alert. Finally, I have learned patience. My school days and work life can be fast-paced and hurried. When I am volunteering with older adults, I am reminded that I can slow down and appreciate small things that happen in my day, like the smile on a senior’s face when they pet my dog or the gratitude a resident expresses when I take the time to sit and simply listen to them tell me a story.”


How will you help seniors in your chosen career?

“By attending Bergin University of Canine Studies, I will learn how to train service dogs to help seniors and people with different abilities. The program even includes a community service requirement, so I can continue to volunteer, serving elders, as part of my degree plan. I will also take classes in Comparative Human/Dog Language, Ethics, Human Aging and Grieving, Disability Studies and Experiences, and, of course, Service Dog Training.  In my career, I hope to apply this knowledge and train service dogs that can help the elderly by performing tasks that will improve and convenience their lives. Through my volunteer experiences, I have seen how dogs can improve a senior’s day and I want to train service dogs that can improve senior’s lives. Furthermore, it is my goal to work toward improving service dog training techniques that further enhance the psychological bond between the dog and the owner. My plan is to work for an organization that trains and places service dogs with individuals in need, as well as provides training and support to families and individuals to enhance the dog owner experience, as well as that of the dog. Additionally, I plan to keep volunteering with older adults, bringing my dogs and future training students/families to local nursing homes to share the knowledge and joy I have found in working with seniors.”


You can enter the 2019 Students for Seniors Scholarship!

Are you a current student who is passionate about helping the seniors in your life? We encourage you to apply for our 2019 scholarship! This year we are offering not only a monetary prize to our winner, but to the school that referred them. We are looking forward to reading your entries! Please visit our scholarship page for all of the details on how to enter.