Shana Shuemate, 18, has wanted to be a veterinarian her whole life, so when she started thinking about what to do for her senior project at South Mecklenburg High, it only made sense to focus on animals.
After putting her sewing skills to work, Shuemate not only has completed a project but started a campaign.
Each high school senior in North Carolina must complete a research paper, product, presentation and portfolio based on a topic they determine during their junior year. Topics vary greatly from student to student, with most picking a subject of personal interest.
When Shuemate heard about NFL player Michael Vick's dog-fighting scandal in 2007, she was particularly moved by the helpless animals involved. "I wanted to do something that would help the animals in our community, and dog fighting is just a whole bunch of animal abuse," said Shuemate.
Piggybacking on the awareness created by the Vick sandal, Shuemate decided her project would increase awareness about dog fighting and raise funds for organizations like the Humane Society that help abused animals.
The idea for her project's product came from her Apparel II class at South Meck High. The class makes a variety of items that it sells to raise funds for class supplies. One of its biggest sellers is key chains.
"I figured that was a good way to get the word out about dog fighting," Shuemate said.
After choosing the fabric, Shuemate used her teacher's embroidery machine to make the letters "S.T.F.," for "Survive the Fight," on each key chain. She then borrowed a sewing machine to shape the fabric into neat rectangles attached to key rings.
Shuemate also added a laminated tag to each ring that includes the Web address of the site she created to spread awareness.
"I've been selling the key chains at school and people ask me about them," Shuemate said. "It's been spreading through word of mouth."
So far, she has sold more than 30 key chains for $3 each. She is donating the more than $100 she's raised to the Humane Society of Charlotte.
Through her website and Facebook page, Shuemate has links to news articles, graphs and photos about dog fighting. She makes it clear that instances of dog fighting are on the rise. In Philadelphia alone, it has jumped from less than 100 cases in 2004 to 1,177 cases in 2010.
Shuemate explained that the best way to stop dog fighting is to alert the authorities if you have suspicions it is occurring and to donate to organizations like the Humane Society, ASPCA and PITA, which fight against it.
Having been accepted to UNC Greensboro next year, Shuemate plans to minor in pre-veterinary medicine and then go to veterinary school.
Other than her interest in animals, Shuemate also enjoys history, and she hopes to major in classical studies before going to veterinary school.