Where Are They Now?

Catching up with Past VRG Interns and Scholarship Winners

By Casey Brown and Heather Francis

The Vegetarian Resource Group is excited to celebrate its 35th year as a non-profit organization. Over the course of The VRG's 35 years, interns and scholarship winners have made enormous contributions to the vegetarian movement. In recognition of these achievements, we contacted many past interns and scholarship winners to highlight the impact The VRG has had on their lives. Since 2003, The Vegetarian Resource Group has annually offered two $5,000 scholarships to high school seniors who have actively promoted vegetarian diets. Due to the generosity of donors, we have now added an additional $10,000 award.

Since 1990, The Vegetarian Resource Group has had interns ranging in age from middle schoolers to college students to post university, from around the U.S., and even international interns from Japan and Germany. Some undertake these positions for high school, college, or graduate school requirements, while others are here simply to learn and serve. In addition, there is the Eleanor Miltimore Wolff Scholarship, which is a paid internship, for one student each year who could not participate in the internship without a little financial assistance, but wants to be an effective change agent on behalf of vegetarians.

We spoke with those who are still in school and others who are currently working.

Navaal Mahdi, an intern from 2015, is a college senior finishing her Media and Communications degree this year. She actively supports veggie groups and said of the impact The VRG had on her, "Personally, I'm more comfortable with talking to people one-on-one about veganism. I can answer their questions about why I'm vegan much more directly and openly."

Rachel Prokop, an intern from 2009, is currently working for Greenpeace USA as an online manager and states that The VRG "introduced me to the nonprofit world and influenced me to make a career working for causes I believe in." Rachel also feels that without her VRG experience, she would not be so passionate about working for a nonprofit.

A past intern from 2014, Karen Leibowitz, currently works in Dallas, Texas, as a Food & Nutrition manager for a K-12 independent school district. She hopes to make a difference in the vegetarian movement through her job managing school nutrition.

Anne Custer interned at The VRG in 2015 and realized "how it was possible to connect my career goals and my moral conscience to help people in need." Working here affirmed her choice to help people eat healthier and adopt a cruelty-free diet. She is studying at James Madison University in Virginia.

Laura McGuiness, a recent graduate of University of California, Berkeley, is determined to find a job working for the Library of Congress. Interning at The VRG in 2013 further solidified her passion for library science, as she spent time looking through archival documents online and working directly with the Library of Congress. Working at The VRG helped her decide to take up a history minor, and she later won a scholarship offered by The Vegetarian Resource Group. Laura is the editor of the monthly VRG Maryland email newsletter, has contributed articles to Vegetarian Journal, works as a library clerk, and is an avid vegan baker.

Valerie Shore interned in 2012, and found The VRG to be a huge learning experience in terms of her writing skills. She said, "I've always enjoyed writing differently for different mediums and audiences, and VRG gave me a chance to try out writing in a more marketing-directed way, which I didn't get a chance to do in school." She currently works for an eco-friendly outdoor teak furniture company, where she is involved in email marketing. She continues to volunteer with groups in the area and supports local vegetarian and vegan events and businesses.

Veronica Bremer interned in 2010 and is currently pursuing her PhD in Art History and Theory at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany. She finds the writing and communications skills she learned at VRG have helped her within administrative duties in her job. She was able to travel to Sydney, Australia and attend the vegan festival there while also learning about their vegan community. Veronica says working at The VRG impacts her still to this day, and says her experience "has allowed me to see the world with more patience, to continue to treat this earth and humanity with more prudence and compassion."

Caroline Pyevich interned in 1996, and has now reached 24 years of vegetarianism. She says her internship gave her the confidence to maintain her choice, and she continues to promote vegetarianism to her students and family members.

Amory Fischer, a 2013 scholarship winner from Virinia said, "I graduated this May after finishing my degree in three years. I received a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Policy and Planning with a minor in Urban Forestry. Upon graduation, I took a job with a Virginia-based solar development company. My work involves helping schools, non-profits, universities, hospitals, and others who cannot afford the upfront cost go solar through power purchase agreements. This has been especially meaningful on a personal level because I am currently overseeing the installation of solar on my high school, after leading a campaign for solar on the school while still a student there. While a student at Virginia Tech, I led many actions promoting vegetarianism/veganism. These included increasing vegan options on campus, setting up displays, supporting the Vegetarian Club at Virginia Tech, organizing events during earth week, taking a leadership role in Food Day, and taking on the leadership role of Outreach Chair for Earth Week." Amory stated, "Now that I am living in Charlottesville, Virginia, again, I plan on getting involved as a volunteer for the Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival this fall. I am still close with the man in charge, Dave Redding, who runs the Healthy Food Coalition in Charlottesville and wrote my letter of reference for the VRG scholarship. I look forward to being a part of this festival again! Although I am no longer a student, I plan on becoming active in the vegetarian club at the University of Virginia, as I know several friends who are still students who are part of this organization. Additionally, as a founding member of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition during my freshman year at Virginia Tech, I will continue my activism through work on the issue of animal agriculture, which is cruel and inhumane as well as poisoning our planet."

Amory added, "When I received the VRG scholarship for my freshman year of college, my mother had just lost her job and we were looking at the huge cost of college, trying to figure out how to pay for it. The VRG scholarship helped at a crucial moment to make college affordable for my family. Because my mother, step-father, and sister are all vegetarian as well, taking a large portion of the college burden off my family has helped four vegetarians for the price of one! Beyond the monetary aspect, The Vegetarian Resource Group has been an inspiration for me. It has encouraged me to value and promote my vegetarian lifestyle and the morality behind it. This week, I am looking forward to cooking some Pakistani curry, a recipe I found in a copy of the VRG magazine. And one day, I hope to pass these values and lifestyle choices on to my children, who will know that they are part of a growing movement!"

Chloe Falkenheim, a scholarship winner from 2015, says the scholarship "made it possible for her to attend the school she had dreamt about." She currently attends Oberlin College where she plans to focus her studies on innovation, communication, and music. She continues to run VegYouth, which is a nonprofit organization that she founded in 2013. Through VegYouth, Chloe hopes to build a community for teens to learn more about veganism and to empower them to adopt this lifestyle. She also provides guidance for students looking to start vegan and vegetarian clubs within their schools. Chloe recently worked with her school's community-based social marketing lab in order to conduct research to determine students' motivations for choosing or refusing meatless options, which will be analyzed and used to introduce more meatless meals into the cafeteria.

Greta Lorenz, a scholarship winner from 2013, is a design student at University of California, Los Angeles, where she is a member of the Bruins for Animals Club. The inspiration for her art "has always been to help the environment and all living beings." She enjoys the freedom her artwork allows her, and she hopes to raise awareness about the harm the animal industry causes to both the Earth and the living animals. She is grateful to The VRG for allowing her to have the opportunity to follow her dreams, and she hopes she is able to continue to inspire and encourage others to adopt a cruelty-free lifestyle.

Gretchen Coleman, a 2012 winner, is a recent graduate of Saint Louis University, where she studied Nutrition and Dietetics. She will be continuing her studies at the University of Minnesota, where she will complete her dietetic internship. Gretchen has used her course presentations and projects to discuss the importance of nutrition and show others how vegetarian diets are optimal for preventing chronic diseases. She is thankful to The VRG for allowing her to "attend the school of my dreams and achieve my goals throughout college."

Isabella Pezzulo is a student at the University of Richmond, where she studies Visual Arts and Media Practice. She won The VRG scholarship in 2014 for her activism within her community, and she continues to promote veganism through her daily actions. While living on campus, she met with the dining service directors to encourage them to provide a wider variety of vegan options on the meal plan. Winning the scholarship allowed her to pursue her passions and "to eat consciously and spread the value with everyone I meet."

Jeremy Beckham, a scholarship winner from 2003, says he "owes a great deal of thanks to VRG for their support." He is currently a graduate student at the University of Utah, and he believes his education will enhance his work in promoting veganism and working to end animal experimentation. Since winning the scholarship, he has worked in PETA's Laboratory Investigations Department as a Research Specialist for the Beagle Freedom Project and as a co-organizer for the Utah Animal Rights Coalition's Salt Lake City Vegfest. At Vegfest, he is looking forward to informing the community how, "They can save up to 100 animals each year, significantly lessen their impact on the environment, and improve their overall health by simply leaving animal products off their plates." He is a dedicated activist in his community and is very passionate about working to end animal experimentation and promote veganism.

Whitney Blomquist, a 2012 intern, continues to actively volunteer with The Vegetarian Resource Group and advocate for veganism. She staffs booths at festivals and also helps her mother run The Southern Maryland Vegan and Vegetarian Group. She wants her career to "express my passion for ethical eating and living."

Kitty Jones, a scholarship winner from 2012, is a current student at University of California, Berkeley, where she double majors in Chicano Studies and Wildlife Ecology. She is grateful for The VRG's scholarship, which has allowed her to "dedicate more of my time and life to activism and advocacy." She is involved with the Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy on her campus where they do protests, displays, movie screenings, food giveaways, and other diverse actions that draw attention from students on her campus. She is very passionate about animal rights and animal liberation, and she feels these events have been very effective at raising awareness for these issues on her campus. In her free time, she also volunteers with other vegan and animal advocacy groups in her community, including The Humane League, with whom she often leaflets.

Our experience interviewing past interns and scholarship winners has demonstrated to us the vast number of people who are dedicated to the vegetarian movement. We are proud to celebrate The Vegetarian Resource Group's 35th Anniversary by outlining just a small sampling of the amazing work our past interns and scholarship winners have accomplished.

If you are interested in learning more about interning with The Vegetarian Resource Group, visit: http://www.vrg.org/student/index.php.

If you are interested in learning more about the scholarships offered by The Vegetarian Resource Group, visit: http://www.vrg.org/student/scholar.htm.

To support The Vegetarian Resource Group internships and outreach, donate at www.vrg.org/donate or mail to VRG, P.O. Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203.

Casey Brown and Heather Francis wrote this piece while doing internships with The Vegetarian Resource Group. They both hope to become vegan dietitians in the future.