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Therapy dogs pay visit to CCGA
The scents of coffee and junk food - the fuel for college students during final exams - filled the air Thursday at the College of Coastal Georgia library.

Students pored over notes from the semester or worked on computers. Some had sleeping bags stacked in a room of the library that would remain open 24 hours a day during finals week.

And then there were the dogs.

Among the intense studying were two toy poodles, one black, one white.

Eyes popped up from books, peered around computers and grins spread around the room. Little Sophie and Sammy were there to bring a little mood-lift.

Dean of Library Services Debbie Holmes and the library staff had arranged for certified therapy dogs, the poodles and some others, to visit as a way to de-stress the studying students. It appeared to work.

Alyson Kowalchuk took a break from her preparations for an accounting exam to hold Sammy, while her 8-year-old son, Carter Francisco, held Sophie. As a non-traditional student, Kowalchuk said college administrators have worked hard to create a more accommodating campus.

"It's become a lot easier to make things work, especially being a non-traditional student," she said.

President Greg Aloia, who is in his first semester as college president, has made it a goal to attract students to the campus and make them feel comfortable there. One way he has done that is by having the library remain open 24 hours a day during finals week.

"It's creating that impression we want them to feel that they have somewhere to go," Holmes said. "This is a place where they can be both comfortable and safe."

Along with the 24 hours of study space and puppy therapy, library staff members have kept coffee brewing the whole time. They have spread the word to students about available tutors and that pizza was to be available Thursday evening - delivered by college president Aloia.

"We've had quite a lot of students coming through here, staying until 2 or 3 a.m. most times," Holmes said. "Students really like it. They feel supported."

* Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and other local topics. Contact her at, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 322.

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