Chenoa Manor's Teen Program: Finding Common Ground Between At-Risk Youth and Abused Animals

Everyone and everything deserves a second chance, and veterinarian Rob Teti offers a new perspective on life for abused animals and their human counterparts.

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In 2010, the CBS Evening News discovered Chenoa, airing a story that focused on CFS student and volunteer Josh Rice, an aspiring vet who’s now finishing his second year at the University of Maryland.

When Rob Teti first laid eyes on the Chenoa property, there wasn’t any fencing, and it was overgrown with multi-floral rose and other invasive plants. Now, there are six defined pastures.

When teenage volunteers first see Chenoa, it’s safe to say that more than a few are skeptical. Most are referred through therapists or counselors. Church Farm students are required to do five hours of community service a year. One trip to the farm meets that—but many get hooked. All are assigned work based on the type of support group the teen belongs to, a school’s curriculum or the individual’s assessed needs.

Last summer’s daily camps were filled with kids from the Coatesville Youth Initiative. In that program, 40 of them were paid to work at host sites where they would also have mentoring experiences. Four of them ended up at Chenoa, spending part of the day working with animals and the rest creating artwork based on their experiences.

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Teti has always linked his outreach to the arts. It’s part of what he calls Chenoa’s “eclectic palette” of exposures—all in an environment where the teens already feel comfortable.

Even the farm’s pigs do their own artwork. “They’re the pieces that sell all the time,” says Teti.

For these abstract works, pigs stomp in foods with natural dyes (mud and muck, too) and then onto canvas boards. Remarkably, each piece includes a ghost-like image of a pig. “But no one knows it when they buy,” says Teti. “One woman bought two, then we told her about seeing the pigs in them. She couldn’t believe it.”

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