Rebecca Pancoast became a vegetarian at age 9. When she was fourteen she helped to establish a local group which fed vegetarian meals to the homeless. A few years later she became one of the core members of The Green Café, the only vegetarian restaurant in her small Pennsylvania town. Though just in high school, she was trusted enough to open the business for the day, act as the head chef during some of her shifts, manage a shift, and close at night.
The manager of The Green Café said Rebecca was pivotal in the restaurant still being there. For a while they were very short staffed, and they would not have survived without her. In a business and movement with high turnover, Rebecca never let down the people dependent on her.
The Green Café was unable to find good quality local produced vegan breads. Rebecca saw that as an opportunity to prove her commitment to the philosophy behind the restaurant. She became their primary bread maker on her own volunteer time. Rebecca also volunteered to paint murals on the wall, and helps with outreach such as booths at farmers’ markets, a May Fair, Music Festival, and event with the Girl Scouts. When the staff has meetings, she volunteers to come in and do what is necessary.
In order to make sure the vegetarian restaurant thrives and has an impact on her town, she has decided to go to a nearby college and not go away to school. Rebecca’s manager stated, “I’ve never witnessed such commitment at such a young age. Rebecca is truly a remarkable youth. Rebecca is compassion and conviction in action.”
This summer Rebecca is developing and managing a breakfast menu, in order to bring in more needed cash to the restaurant. Rebecca stated, “Because no matter how much you teach a person about ethics and health, they still want something tangible. A delicious, filling vegetarian meal is something that will not only stick to your bones, but it will stick in your mind as well. And once the food prejudice has passed, a person will be more willing to listen to the intellectual aspects of the movement.”
Jeremy Beckham said up to the age of 15, he fished for sharks off the coast of Texas, and hunted various birds and deer. After seeing a television program with a piece about hunting, he became an anti- hunting advocate. At a debate tournament a short time later, he was discussing with another debater why he disapproved of hunting. Jeremy states that the other debater, “correctly pointed out that I was showing an inconsistency in speaking out against killing and being cruel to some animals, while at the same time sticking a fork in others… After a few months of denial and guilt, I made the switch to a vegan diet.”
Young Jeremy had influence on his family, teachers, school, community, and even animal rights organizations. His mother became vegan and together they give talks on vegetarianism. He has created a Powerpoint presentation for lectures. Jeremy speaks in school health classes once a semester and on the Great American Meatout Day. Though he graduates this year, he has already committed to the health teacher that he will come back in future years and give talks on vegetarian diets. Jeremy set up an information table promoting vegetarianism at concerts by Moby and Goldfinger. He spoke at the Utah Animal Rights Coalition annual vegan Thanksgiving banquet.
At a debate tournament hosted by Jeremy’s school, he set up a table selling vegan sandwiches with a video explaining why veganism was an alternative to the suffering occurring in factory farms. Jeremy’s debate coach said Jeremy posted his debate case on animal experimentation on the policy debate website, cross-x.com, for free public access. Thus, his coach stated, “Jeremy’s case is now being run in at least fifteen different states by debaters who are convinced Jeremy’s case has merit. … Many have chosen vegetarianism/ veganism as a direct result of this case…” Normally during debate trips, the kids go to McDonald’s. Because of Jeremy’s influence, the debate coach’s wife made Middle Eastern food and vegan pizza, which they served rather than going to a fast food chain.
Jeremy’s debate and German teacher said about the impact Jeremy had on him, “I later began to deeply ponder his positions and realized they weren’t just the rantings of an overly idealistic youth, but genuinely thought out arguments with deep moral implications… I argued with Jeremy for over a year about his indictment of my meat-eating style. Jeremy rebutted every position I put forth. … Two months ago I made the decision to go vegan…”
Jeremy says, “However, I think one can do even more to promote vegetarianism through secondary effects of college - namely credibility. In five years, I hope to be in graduate school striving towards my PhD. Whether we as activists like it or not, the public listens to you a lot more if you have credentials and letters after your name. College and academia can elevate your societal status and give you mouthpieces to spread the message in a way that the common person can not. A perfect example of this is authoring books. Those who have no academic credentials and write books sell very few copies - while those who are PhD.’s get noticed for the ideas and mainstream status that assists them in promoting whatever agenda they may have. The vegan agenda is no exception to this rule…. I currently have long-term plans for writing a three-volume series of books on the benefits of a vegan diet….”
Even though the scholarship application was extensive, The Vegetarian Resource Group had close to 200 great submissions. Runnerups included:
The selection process was very difficult, as unfortunately we only are able to give out two awards. Congratulations to all the entrants for doing so much to make the world a better place.
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