Updated: Dec 11, 2020
The heartbreaking tragedies of 2020 have given rise to powerful, life-affirming champions for good - people willing to stand up against injustice and take initiative to move humanity forward toward a more compassionate and equitable future.
We’ve seen hope emerge from the ashes of suffering. We’ve witnessed strength and courage rise up in the face of a deeply-divided and turbulent world.
What is it that makes people take risks, put themselves out there, make their voices heard, and take initiative?
As a teenager, I believed that activists and leaders must have some magical power, a gift they were born with, a destiny leading them forward on their mission, like a superhero put on Earth to right all the world’s wrongs.
I was painfully shy as a kid. In middle school, after months of sitting by myself and not interacting with my peers on the school bus, the boy sitting in front of me (who had spent those same months trying to get me to talk) turned around in his seat, and asked me if I even had the ability to speak.
I responded by silently nodding Yes.
As a freshman, I wore my older brother’s hand-me-down field coat every single day as a protective cloak to get me through the crowded halls of my high school unnoticed. I was by no means a defiant teenager (quite the opposite, in fact), but when my English teacher asked me to please just take off that coat today, I refused.
I was in awe of a girl named Jess who spoke her mind and seemed to have an incredible grasp on social justice issues and a passion to work for a better future. I looked her up recently to see where life had taken her, and sure enough, she’s stayed true to her mission and leads trainings on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
So what is it that creates leaders? And what is a leader anyway?
As I’ve grown into an adult and found my own voice, I’ve witnessed energized young people leading the charge on racial justice, climate action, and LGBTQ+ rights. I’ve come to realize that leaders are simply everyday people who have summoned the courage within to put themselves out there for a bigger purpose.
WHY CHOOSE VEG?
At VSA, we believe that each of us has the power within us to effect positive change. For some, our actions may be widespread, publicized, and highly recognized; others may be quiet change-makers more effective at one-on-one outreach. All styles of influence are needed in this world.
Veg Student Alliance is a program for vegan and vegetarian students and their friends and supporters to develop knowledge and leadership skills needed to speak up on behalf of human health, environmental justice, animals, and worker rights.
Our increasingly industrialized food system is taking a toll on all fronts, having a negative impact on our forests, our water supply, our oceans, and even the climate through the emission of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Our standard Western diet is impacting our health and wreaking havoc on ecosystems and the biodiversity of life on Earth. The strategic placement of CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) in low-income communities and communities of color is systemically racist and classist. Workers in meatpacking plants have disproportionately high rates of illness and injury. Consumers are increasingly questioning the ethics of our current food system both from a human and an animal rights perspective.
But none of this is news to vegan and vegetarian students.
They’ve read the articles, watched the films, shared the info on social media, talked to their friends and family . . .
But still many of their concerns and valid reasons for choosing to exclude animal products from their diets (and other areas of life) remain unheard at best and ridiculed at worst.
Many veg students give up and remain silent on this important issue, one that affects each and every one of us on a daily basis.
OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES
At VSA, you are heard, you are valued, and you are respected.
Our guiding principles of compassion, allyship, sustainability, pragmatism, and plant-forward thinking guide our daily actions and our interactions with others. We believe in respectful, fact-based communication and meeting others where they are. We believe in the fundamental value of all beings and strive to find common ground with and a better understanding of others.
We know that change often happens incrementally and cannot be forced. We seek to build young leaders with the skills needed to take initiative toward a more plant-based, just, sustainable, and equitable future.
We seek to create a safe leadership program for veg youth, but all are welcome. We simply ask that you come with an open mind and a willingness to listen, ask questions, learn, and grow.
JOIN US IN TAKING INITIATIVE!
If you are a middle or high schooler (over age 13) in New Hampshire or Toronto and are ready to take initiative, please follow us on social media and stay tuned for our registration to start soon!
This pilot program will include 10 students from NH and 10 from Toronto, but we seek to expand as we assess interest and demand.
Thank you for your support and for your interest in VSA!