Below is the story of Bryan Herrera and his teacher, Sarah Horne, who helped him come out of his shell through his love of dogs, and specifically the misunderstood Pit Bull. The love of animals is a powetful thing, and Bryan's affinity and understanding of this breed in particular is an inspiring reminder that that love can change lives.

Bryan Herrera, 16, dropped out of traditional high school when he was 15. He soon after decided to attend Pasadena YouthBuild to continue working on his high school diploma. He currently lives with his father and two of his sisters. When he first came to Pasadena YB, Bryan was a very reluctant student, and especially a hesitant writer. Throughout the year, however, Bryan has made tremendous progress. He has not only improved his reading and writing skills, he has become a more disciplined and responsible student.

Pasadena YouthBuild is a continuation school for students who dropped out of high school and are going back to school to get their high school diploma. Students complete coursework in English, History, Math, Science, Government, Economics, Life Skills and Electives. With smaller class sizes, individualized student plans and a lot of personal assistance from teachers, students are able to accomplish what they were not able to in the traditional school system.

It is my first year at Pasadena YB where I teach English, History and Government. I previously taught in Senegal, South Central and Inglewood. A key part of my job is making the curriculum relevant to students’ lives and finding topics they are passionate about. This year in Integrated History (U.S. and World), we studied social movements throughout the world and how people fought to regain their rights. As the year’s final project, students researched and completed a presentation about an issue they would start a social movement to change. Bryan society’s shunning of pitbulls. One day after Bryan had already completed the project, he asked me if I would read a letter. It was his piece about pit bulls. He developed the idea for the article himself and wrote it entirely on his own time, without ever asking for credits for the assignment.

In Defense of Pit Bulls

"I would like to speak on behalf of pit bulls and pit bull owners of America to say that pit bulls should not be judged and penalized. I know that there have been instances in which pit bulls have attacked adults and even children. However, these pit bulls were made mean and aggressive by people who know nothing about the animal and only saw them as expendable objects to make them look tough.

Outcasting the pit bull is part of a fad of shunning dog breeds that has been going on for years. In the 70s it was the Doberman, in the 80s it was the Rottweiler and then in the 90s it was the German shepherd. Now it’s the pit bull. The public has so many ideas of what a pit bull is like- that they can’t be trusted or that they are not safe for kids- but one of their original jobs was as a nanny because they have loyalty and love for their owners so much that they would risk their life to save them. If you don’t believe me, google a pit bull named D-boy or Lilly.

We as people cannot shun a breed because of a bad rep that they didn’t cause on purpose or even deserve. So why should we try to erase a breed that we created in the first place? We can’t just get rid of them because people are afraid of a breed that has been blamed for what only a few mistreated dogs have done."