I’m so proud of my niece and since it has to do with animals I think I can use this column to brag a bit. Sarah is a sophomore at a private school in Los Angeles and is interested in animal rights. She recently turned vegan (both she and her sister were raised pescatarian since birth) and started an animal right’s club at her school. Wanting to spread the word, Sarah has convinced her school to start observing Meatless Monday in the cafeteria after presenting it to the school and having the students vote to support it. She’s a very vocal activist and gives her time to volunteer in the kitten nursery at the Best Friends Shelter in her area.
Her school does an innovative program each year where the kids spend two weeks in what is called an immersion course of their choosing. They just learn about this one topic for the two weeks in an intensive and hands-on learning program. Topics vary and have included photography, clothing design, community activism and circus acrobatics, just to name a few. It’s a great opportunity for the kids to meet people working in that field, go on fieldtrips, try their hand at the activity and really explore career options in a field they may be interested in. So guess what Sarah did? She found a teacher to be her advisor and works with her to prepare a proposal for an animal rights immersion program!
It took a lot of work, contacting possible places for fieldtrips, guest speakers, researching the topics to present and writing up the proposal for the administration to consider and approve. But she did it! And this year was the first time animal rights was offered as an option. Six students (including Sarah) signed up for it and this week is the beginning of the program. I was honored to be invited to be the opening speaker. As a shelter manager she asked me to talk about animal shelters, the “no-kill” movement and humane education. That is a big topic and covers a lot of material.
I created a lot of PowerPoint slides since I couldn’t bring other visual aids with me on the plane. Trying to engage and hold the interest of high school students for a couple of hours is challenging! I covered the history of the No-Kill movement, the issues and challenges that surround it and some of the realities of running an animal shelter. We talked about pet overpopulation as well as spay and neuter so they would more fully understand what that is and why it’s important. We talked about microchips, how they work and the impact they could have on reducing the stray population in a shelter. And I encouraged them to continue to learn and, most importantly, to share what they learn so that more people can be reached with the message of kindness and responsibility.
Sarah had arranged fieldtrips to two local shelters – one private and one municipal and two farm sanctuaries. Sadly, the fires disrupted the rest of the week and the sanctuary fieldtrips were cancelled. I can’t wait to hear how the second week goes and what impact it had on the students. They were a very open and interested group and are at a great impressionable age! There is nothing like young minds and fresh hearts that believe they can change the world.
I’m a bit surprised I haven’t heard of an animal rights club in any of our local high schools. I know SSU had a fledgling group a couple years ago but have heard nothing more about it recently so I’m not sure if it still exists. Empowering young people with information and letting them go into the world with their enthusiasm is probably our best hope of ending up with a less violent world. It was exciting to be a small piece of that and I thank my niece for that opportunity.
Kidz ‘n Critters Winter Camp - Registration is now open for our Winter Camp program. Your kids will have fun while learning about responsible pet care and spending time socializing with our shelter animals.
Session 1, Thurs./Fri, Dec. 28 & 29 for 3rd & 4th-graders
Session 2, Thurs./Fri, Jan. 4 & 5 for 5th & 6th-graders
Sessions run from 8:30-12:30. Cost is $50 per camper.
Registration is limited - applications are available at the RP Animal Shelter.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.