Training young leaders to create change for animals

August 17, 2017

(From top left: Cat Strickland, Bryanna Lee, Krista Kihlander, Rachel Godlesky, and Kirstie Keith)

This past weekend, The Humane League's Campus Outreach staff had the honor of hosting our very first Campus Outreach Conference, a gathering of 40 of our Campus Organizers for effective activism training and community-building.

The goals of the conference, or "Camp THL" as we affectionately called it, were to:

  • facilitate team-building among Campus Organizers and with program staff
  • train Campus Organizers in The Humane League's format and approach, the expectations of the Campus Outreach program, and effective activism and club leadership
  • enable Campus Organizers to head back to school feeling inspired, confident, and ready to create change and build community on their campuses.

The weekend was filled with interactive presentations, breakout sessions where we strategized and practiced skills together, team-builders and games, and—very importantly— vegan s'mores.

One of my favorite moments (of many!) came when we were playing an icebreaker called "Common Ground." We formed a circle outside as one person stood in the middle and said "I'm searching for common ground with someone who (fill in the blank)" and then everyone who identifies with that statement runs to trade places with someone else, leaving a new person in the middle to take the next turn. After about 40 minutes of playing as a group, we ended the official program for the day, but most everyone wanted to keep playing. An hour later, after heading off to work on some other things, I looked out the window to see about a dozen students still playing the game, in the steady rain, finding yet more things to connect with one another about.

For me, the whole weekend was an incredible reminder of how powerful community is: For many students in our program, it was the first time they were surrounded by other animal activists and, as some said, the first time they really knew they were not alone.

Sarah Seifert, a rising senior at Texas Woman's University, summed up her thoughts about the conference this way: "The THL Conference gave me so much more than I could ever imagine. My beliefs and values were strengthened for life, my passion exploded, my spirits soared, and my heart was healed. So many beautiful souls gathered for a beautiful purpose. It was overwhelming but in the best way possible."

Krista Kihlander, a sophomore at Florida Gulf Coast University, shared a similar sentiment: "Not only did Camp THL arm me with the tools to be a compassionate activist, it also reinforced my lifestyle as a vegan. From fellow organizers to THL staff members, the people around me inspired me at every turn and reminded me I was far from alone in this battle."

I know all of us staff members who were lucky enough to be there were incredibly inspired by the passion, creativity, empathy, and spirit of inclusion these 40 young leaders displayed, and we couldn't be more proud to have them as part of The Humane League.

Want to apply to be a Humane League Campus Organizer for the 2018 - 2019 school year? Check out the application here!