Movement Building: The Next Generation
It's back to school season—a momentous time of change for students, and animals. Working with student organizers on college campuses has long been integral to the success of The Humane League's (THL) high-impact grassroots programs and campaign victories, and movement building has always been central to The Humane League's mission to reduce animal suffering.
As we kick off a new school year, our Campus Outreach program is continuing to cultivate future leaders within the animal rights movement with a new class of THL campus organizers each year, thanks in part to our program's annual Campus Outreach Conference. What began last year has now become tradition, on the heels our 2nd annual conference—held at the beginning of August at Hands 4 Youth in Macopin, New Jersey.
This year, 43 of our new campus organizers, hailing from all across the country—from Alaska to Florida—came together for a long weekend of team building and animal advocacy training. With a longer, three day program, this year provided more time for team building activities and simply a chance to connect with our all-star class of 2018/19.
Over three full days of interactive programming, our new class received in-depth insight into THL's history, philosophy, and culture. Students learned the why's and how's of our relentless institutional campaigns and grassroots organizing programs and received hands on training through a number of collaborative workshops.
Campus Outreach Director, José Elias, lead students through a diversity & inclusion workshop, exploring the intersectionality of the animal rights movement and encouraging mindfulness and collaboration with other social movements on campus. Campus Outreach Coordinator, Katie Zarajczyk, taught the importance of goal-setting through an activity that encouraged them to dream big about the impact they will have. And, Campus Outreach Director, Meghan Smith, held an action party workshop where participants were able to take a number of actions in support of our national campaign against McDonald's chicken cruelty.
Staff from our Leadership Team, Corporate Relations and our Campaigns departments joined us at "Camp THL" to get to know our new class of campus organizers, giving students insight and mentorship into running effective campaigns.
In addition to animal advocacy training, our students and staff enjoyed downtime for fun extracurricular activities. From campfire nights, to boating and swimming on the lake, by the end of our long weekend, our team had been forged in the fires of our shared vision—one of a world where humanity's treatment of animals is just and where suffering no longer exists.
While THL's Campus Outreach program is an internship program, to call it such falls short of encapsulating what this program truly means to our students, staff, and our movement at large. The conference wrapped up with a group reflection activity. Sitting in the shade beneath a tall oak tree, staff and students came together to take a look back on the weekend together, vulnerably sharing how much the weekend had meant to them. Although we, at The Humane League, feel like the lucky ones—truly fortunate to have the best, brightest, and most compassionate rising leaders and advocates on our team and in our shared movement.
"The conference is such a nice touch to the program. Not only was it motivating, but it was refreshing to be around individuals who care about the same issues as you. It only pushes you harder during the academic year," shared Sienna Rodriguez-Truley, a second-year Campus Organizer, said, "Being a Campus Organizer to me is being part of the THL family. I am so happy to work alongside with my family to make a difference in the movement, and for animals everywhere."
Katie Zarajczyk, an alum of our program, returned to our conference this year as The Humane League's newest Campus Outreach Coordinator. Talking about the jump from our program to a career in the movement with The Humane League, Katie said "I had the very humbling experience of returning to the Campus Outreach Conference this year as a staff member. I left the weekend thinking about change and growth. Last year I sat at the round tables wide-eyed and hopeful as a Campus Organizer. I remember listening to lectures and wondering if I had what it took to work in the movement. Witnessing change and progress has always been easier to see in others. Spending time with the returning students was evidence of how much we can flourish when we are supported in a community. As I stood at the podium for my first presentation, with shaking, sweaty hands, I felt so appreciative to be a part of THL. It is such an honor to be able to work with eager, passionate, inspiring, student leaders. My heart is filled by connecting with them and building relationships with the growing army of activists at The Humane League."
Students left the conference feeling excited to get back to school and begin building their own campus movement. While there is still a lot of hard work to do for animals, seeing our future leaders empowered and ready to march forward as a united front gives confidence that the future of our movement for animals is undoubtedly strong and charged for change.