(These students will be starting college in September, 2004.)
When Alexandra Faber started the Conserving our Wildlife (C.O.W.) Club in high school, one of her main objectives was to have more vegan/vegetarian options in the cafeteria. Alexandra's dogged persistence resulted in vegan burgers being served. She requested they stop putting cheese and butter in the tomato sauce for the pasta, which they did. She also asked that they put the container of plain tomato sauce behind the meat sauce. The cafeteria staff was taught how to clean the stove before preparing the veggie burgers in the morning, and asked to cook them before they cooked the meat burgers. "The kitchen staff was extremely nice and helpful, and I was able to eat well at school every day," said Alexandra.
During her final year of high school, Alexandra chose an internship where she could give out vegetarian literature at Grand Central Station in New York City, a Goldfinger concert, and other venues. At the end of her internship she made a presentation at school about veganism and animal rights.
During the last day of her summer camp, Alexandra held a vegan day, where she cooked all vegan meals and had activities explaining veganism and factory farming. Among several activities was a debate where a non- vegetarian had to defend veganism and a vegetarian had to defend meat eating. Alexandra said, "Anyways, I am proud to say that to this day, 1/2 the camp is vegetarian…They send me letters and e-mails all the time telling me how their vegetarianism is going, and how it has affected them.
The best is from a girl in Brazil, who upon arriving at our camp and finding out there were vegans (she didn't know what a vegan was at first, but after finding out) got very upset and said, "I NEED MY MEAT!! I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT MY MEAT!" and now writes me letters telling me she can never believe she ever said or believed that, because she is now a happy vegetarian… It's things like that that make all the hard times worthwhile."
Alexandra continued, "I've also started to look into sweatshops and manufacturing, and I now only buy second hand clothing, or I make my own clothing, because human rights are of course just as important as animal rights." A youth organization that Alexandra was president of does community service during the year, from cleaning up a park to working at a soup kitchen to having fundraisers for homeless shelters.
Alexandra stated, "Many people think that I don't eat good foods, and even though I tell them that I don't at all feel deprived of anything when it comes to food, they still don't believe me. I honestly feel that even if I didn't care about being a vegan, I could still continue the lifestyle and be very happy with what I ate, without feeling deprived of anything. There are so many fake meats out there, that a vegan and vegetarian could still feel like they are eating a meat-based diet. Boca Burgers, Smart Dogs, Yves products, and Amy's products are all great (although not all of the foods from the companies are vegan). Tofutti makes GREAT vegan cream cheese, as well as great vegan ice cream. I also love the soy ice creams form Soy Decadent and Glace'. My favorite vegan restaurant in New York is GreenSymphony, in the city of Rye. I also love Vegetarian's Paradise 2 in Manhattan, and the VegCity Diner has AMAZING desserts. New York University also has all-vegan meals every month. It's an all you can eat buffet for 8 dollars, and anyone can go."
When Prachi Sharma organized a "Veggie Day" in her high school, weeks in advance she worked with the school cafeteria ladies to put together a veggie menu, so all students would have the option of being vegetarian that day. With extensive promotion, "to my surprise, almost everyone decided to consider a vegetarian diet for that day."
The menu consisted of a veggie burger with a black bean patty, a Mexican veggie wrap, a veggie pizza, a Hawaiian pizza with pineapples, a chef's salad, and a veggie platter dish that included a salad and fruit with cottage cheese. Prachi stated, "The lunch service group was extremely cooperative with assembling alternative lunch items, and even agreed to give out free miniature samples of one veggie item to aid in my promotion."
About 75 percent of the students who buy lunch on a daily basis purchased a vegetarian meal on Veggie Day. Prachi believes this is because "In the first place, a student body of 500 is well below the national average of secondary school enrollment numbers, so I was working with a relatively small group. As a result, I interact with many underclassmen. As an active senior in many groups and organizations, many underclassmen look up to my peer group and since my friends were supporting my 'cause," many others joined the bandwagon. I understand that respected or 'popular' peer groups can be very influential at this age, so I thought I would take advantage of this and set a good example for younger students."
Prachi said, "After my success in school, I resolved to take the movement even further. I decided to produce a fictional short film regarding the importance of vegetables for local broadcast. The film, entitled "Alice in Veggie Land," is about a girl named Alice, who falls asleep while working on her homework and is suddenly startled by a walking carrot. In this dreamland, she meets his other friends and learns the importance of vegetables, and when she wakes up, she decides to dine vegetarian. The film was much more challenging than my school promotion since I had to seek the approval of the local PBS station. They agreed to air the movie if I provided a film of strictly professional quality. I put in quite a bit of time and effort in producing this project including writing the script and learning the mechanics behind animated filmmaking. I gained a lot of practical knowledge and skill from the whole endeavor… I am excited about the notion that I have helped spread the message in my small town… What I learned most from this experience is that one small voice can be heard if a person is persistent and assertive about his/her beliefs. I may not change everyone's mind, but if I can influence even a handful of people to challenge or just think about their own ideas, I am one step closer to positively affecting the world."
Thank you to the donor who enabled VRG to give these students scholarships. The selection process is very difficult, as there are many teens doing great work to promote vegetarianism. If you would like to sponsor additional awards, please drop The Vegetarian Resource Group a note at VRG, Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203; firstname.lastname@example.org; or call (410) 366-8343.2005 CONTEST DEADLINE IS FEBRUARY 20, 2005. For an application, see our scholarship page.
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