MEET THE STAFF
Donna Wasielewski, M.S.
Donna is the Founder and Program Director of the Kids-N-K9s program. She graduated from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota with Bachelor's Degrees in Applied Psychology Behavior Analysis and Criminal Justice Studies and a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice Studies. While completing the practicum for her Master's Degree in 2002, Donna worked with an innovative animal-assisted therapy program in Taylor, Texas, that partnered with local school districts to provide unique animal-assisted therapy services to children ages 5-18 who were in special education for behavioral issues, learning disabilities, and autism. Though the program used exotic animals from llamas to lizards, Donna's true passion was in training dogs, and she looked forward to one day combining her animal-assisted therapy skills with that passion.
In 2004, Donna started working with Williamson County Juvenile Services in Georgetown, Texas. For 5 years, she served as the specialized probation officer for the Justice of the Peace Court in Round Rock to work with youth on probation for truancy, where she developed her passion for working with youth in at-risk circumstances. She developed close relationships with the schools and local agencies to ensure the youth were provided with the support, services, and monitoring they needed.
In 2008, Donna founded Kids-N-K9s, a dog training therapy program working with youth currently living at the Williamson County Juvenile Services's (WCJS) Academy "boot camp" partnered with homeless dogs from the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter. A complete history of the program can be found HERE. The program was so highly acclaimed by youth, staff, volunteers, the shelter, and parents alike that in 2009, Donna moved to a position that allowed her to offer the program year-round. Since that time, KNK9 served over 250 youth and helped over 150 shelter dogs find homes. Donna has been a popular speaker at numerous mental health, behavioral health, and school conferences about the program that can be found HERE.
While at WCJS, Donna was recognized as Probation Officer of the Year and was also recognized by the Juvenile Board for her creation of Kids-N-K9s and her resourcefulness in creating a summer enrichment program for the teens at the Academy, which involved partnering with local agencies and speakers to introduce the youth to educational and recreational opportunities in addition to providing valuable life skills, such as money management.
In 2014, after 10 wonderful years working full-time with Williamson County, Donna left to pursue her dream of expanding Kids-N-K9s to other agencies. Since that time, she has worked as an independent contractor providing KNK9 to Williamson County Juvenile Services and Round Rock Independent School District, whose success story can be found HERE.
Donna also further improved her skills working full-time with private clients as a K9 Behavior Specialist. Some reviews from thrilled clients can be found HERE. Donna uses her ability to make a full-time living doing something she started as a hobby, dog training, to encourage the youth with entrepreneurial dreams to find something they love, work hard at it, and find a way to make a living helping other people with their talents. She still assists private clients with their dogs and specializes in dogs with impulse control issues, helping them and their owners learn how to build skills to become better family members through positive reinforcement, relationship, choice-based training, just like she teaches the youth!
In 2017, Donna was very excited to accept a full-time position with the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, a state agency housing youth offenders court-ordered to be detained while receiving treatment and rehabilitation. Donna is currently using her vast experience working with youth at-risk and creative and innovative programming to further expand TJJD's P.A.W.S. (Pairing Achievement with Service) program, a dog training program where the youth live full-time with shelter or service dogs they are training.
Donna currently lives in Austin, Texas, with her dog and enjoys competing in dog agility, hiking, and kayaking.