I've always been an animal lover but it wasn't until I took a class called Civic Engagement that I started volunteering with animals regularly.

Civic Engagement is a mandatory class at my school, Florida Gulf Coast University, that educates students on the importance of being an active member of society and giving back to the community. When FGCU was founded the school promised that in return for deforesting trees in order to build the school, students would give back to the community in years to follow.

Many students think of this class as either an easy A, or a waste of time. I was indifferent about the class before I took it, but since taking it I see how beneficial it is for students.

Basically, your final grade is dependant on one big, semester-long project. Students chose an organization or cause at the start of the semester and as a group somehow aid the cause/organization.

My group was full of animal lovers so we chose to work with Collier County Domestic Animal Services (DAS). We decided we would help promote and work their big adoption event that took place at the start of December.

My relationship with DAS started off as just one for class, but the more I learned and was trained to properly handle the animals the more I fell in love with the organization and rekindled my love for animals.

Most people avoid animal shelters because they think they're too sad.

The first few times I went to DAS I felt sad too, as I walked past the cats and dogs in cages.

After working hands-on with the animals in the shelter, the staff and volunteers I'm happy to spend time in the shelter because I know by socializing these animals and showing the love I'm helping them become more adoptable.

I can't speak for all shelters, but the dogs and cats at DAS are shown love and compassion. They aren't trapped in cages all day, they're outside learning tricks and playing with other animals.

Most people that chose to work with animals really love animals and enjoy spending time with them.

Animal shelters aren't places of sadness and despair, they're places for second chances.

Be an animal's second chance and adopt today.