You may find that at your school there are no existing clubs relating to your interests, and chances are you’re not alone! Creating a club at your school is an awesome way to spread awareness of the issues vegan and vegetarian lifestyles aim to address. It’s also a fantastic way to meet like-minded people at your school that care about the same matters you do. Having a club can also be a hefty responsibility and it helps to talk to your friends about the idea and try to start a club together.
The rules and criteria for starting a club vary from school to school. In the case of my high school, I met with the activities coordinator and had to fill out an application. The process was very easy at my school and we only needed to keep meeting minutes, have a mission statement, and have a small base of interested students.
Once you have a club you have to spread the word about it and build up a good reputation so that people will want to join. You may be surprised by how many like-minded people there are at your school. Whether your club has five members or fifteen, you want to make sure that students know it exists. More members is often better than fewer because a variety of people makes the club more interesting if everyone is bringing their own experiences and perspectives. Having more members also helps to generate more awareness of the issues and of the club. It’s also important to have a consistent meeting time and location for potential members to find and join your club. The earlier on in your high school career that you start a club the better known it will be and the more time you’ll have to achieve the goals of the club before you graduate.
Reaching out to the student body can be a lot of fun; be creative! Creating a Facebook page for your club might help recruit people and spread awareness about the issues your club focuses on. Because my club focused on the animal rights aspects of veganism, our Facebook page had info and photo albums for different issues including the circus, fur, dairy, animal testing, etc. On your Facebook page you can share information with members, contact them easily and advertise events you’re doing. A more direct way to recruit people is tabling. Some schools don’t allow it, but often if you ask you may be able to set up a small table in the hallway, student lounge, or cafeteria during lunchtime. On your table you can display free fliers, stickers and information about the vegan and vegetarian cause. You may even be allowed to put out free vegan food for students to try. I suggest foods like Tofutti Cuties, soymilk, Tofurky sausages, and vegan cookies, like Uncle Eddie’s. When I tabled in school I often had a plate of Tofurky sausages slices with toothpicks in them for students to eat. Food will also attract people to your table, making them more likely to ask about your club. You can get fliers from Action for Animals, VRG, PETA, Mercy for Animals, and other pro-vegan advocacy organizations. If money is a problem you can get grants to buy outreach materials from Vegfund.org. Last but not least, you can spread the word with good old fashion posters! At my school we were allowed to advertise by making posters (I encourage using one-sided reused paper in order to save trees) and putting them on the walls in the hallways.
Your club can just be a get-together discussion and hang-out group or you can start campaigns at your school. My club in high school was called Students for Animal Rights. I started in freshman year and I spent the first few meetings showing Power Point presentations to the new members about animal rights and why it is an important issue. If your club is about the environment or health of vegan living, talk to your members about what you know about the aspects you care about. In Student for Animals Rights we had discussions and also many campaigns. Some campaigns we had included; educating fellow students about dissection alternatives and why they shouldn’t participate in the “lesson” and getting the school cafeteria to offer soymilk as a beverage option.
People are likely to join your club if it is interesting and active. You can keep your club dynamic and lively by having guest speakers, free food, potlucks, movie screenings, letter writing, fundraisers, volunteer days, and any other activities you can think of. At Students for Animal Rights we had Dave Bemel from Action for Animals and Jennifer Hillman from the Humane Society of the United States come and give separate speeches on how we can help animals and about being vegan. We also had movie screenings for films like Fowl Play and Forks Over Knives.
One of my favorite activities for clubs to do is letter writing. It’s a simple yet effective way to get students involved and taking action. To do letter writing you and your club members choose an issue you all care about and you hand-write letters to send to whomever is in charge of solving it. For example, we wrote to Nordstrom asking them to stop selling fur and also to our head of food services asking her to offer soymilk. A physical hand-written letter is more effective than a typed one or an e-mail. Another fun idea is to take a picture of your club members holding a sign with a message on it to send to the person you’re writing to. Say you were writing to the Prime Minister of Canada, asking him to stop seal clubbing, in addition you could send a photo of your club holding a “STOP SEAL CLUBBING” sign.
Establishing a club is generally a simple process and once you have a club started you can achieve so much in terms of creating community and spreading awareness about issues related to vegan and vegetarianism. Being a part of a club is a very valuable experience in school and you can even put it on your resume. I would highly recommend looking into starting your own club in the near future.
For other club ideas see http://www.vrg.org/teen/
Written by Kitty Jones while doing an internship at VRG. Kitty is a Vegetarian Resource Group college scholarship winner. For information on applying for future scholarships, see https://www.vrg.org/student/scholar.htm