John F. Kennedy once said, “The future promise of any nation can be directly measured by the present prospects of its youth”. Thus, I think it’s safe to say that our future is bright in terms of building a more sustainable future thanks to the passionate students paving the way in HAP’s youth programs.
The impact students can have on promoting a humane world can be seen in the success of the HAP Dice Club. Currently in its third year and located at Taylor Allderdice High School, this club focuses on promoting a lifestyle that results in a humane world for all animals and recognizes the important role they have in ending the climate crisis. HAP Dice was born when student Beatrice Kuhn decided to take initiative after learning about the government’s unjust treatment of horses. Determined to create change, she decided to meet with Dr. Brian Bonsteel (HAP’s president and founder) to start a club to spread awareness about animal protection. During an average meeting, the club meets to talk about the tools of social change and effective communication with legislators about specific issues that are meaningful to animals, such as the effect of plastic pollution on marine life. Furthermore, HAP Dice adopted a code of ethics to live by, such as not using plastic containers, so that members can be the change they wish to see in the world. By bringing someone along with them in making these personal choices as opposed to simply telling someone else how to live more humanely, the club has effectively diffused its code of ethics throughout its community.
Filmmaking students at La Roche University, led by Dr. Crystal Fortwangler, decided to craft a similar message through a different medium by producing short videos that educated viewers about animal protection. By researching dogs in puppy mills, growing sustainable food, and practicing advocacy, the students created public service videos that were shown at the campus film festival. Essentially, this effort by the students stood out; not only were they able to highlight different animal protection campaigns and make them attractive to the college-age demographic, but they were also able to affect the public in a way that solely words can’t.
However, the power of HAP youth isn’t limited to HAP Dice and the La Roche videos, the Youth Steering Committee (YSC), launching in September 2023 will unite high school students passionate about animal welfare and the environment. The YSC will help students build relationships, craft compelling messages, lead with effective communication, and understand specific issues threatening animals, allowing them to grow into seasoned advocates. These students will also earn a $1,000 stipend for their efforts in executing campaigns that advocate for a more humane lifestyle. Ultimately, the YSC is an opportunity for HAP to continuously concentrate on a small group of students and walk them through advocacy, as opposed to making annual visits to different high schools in the Pittsburgh area and educating the students there about animal welfare.
HAP’s Junior Animal Advocate Summer Sessions located at Hope Haven Farm Sanctuary is another program that educates students about the connection between farm animal protection, environmental health, and our own wellbeing. The Hope Haven sessions are run by Dr. Karen Philips, a veterinarian who works at Animal Friends. Housing 97 rescued farm animals, this sanctuary helps the public view animals as sentient beings rather than something to exploit.
Ultimately, giving students the necessary tools and guidance to become advocates of social change is especially important and HAP’s educational programs strive to do just that. These programs inspire students to use their energy, passion, and determination to mobilize communities and drive positive change. With these individuals ready to promote animal and environmental welfare, we are certainly well on our way to achieving a more humane future.