Students are saving the world. Just skim the news lately and you’ll come across headlines about 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s compelling call to action at the recent UN Climate Change talks, or about the growing #FridaysForFuture youth movement and the recent Youth Climate Strike. Globally, youth are mobilizing a mass movement focused on creating a better world.
Locally, we at the Vancouver Humane Society are also inspired by the youth who have led the effort to bring more humane, healthy and sustainable plant-based foods to their school menus and who have worked to educate and empower their peers, and are proud to support amazing young people in Metro Vancouver.
Shiqi Xu and Naiara Peruchena are two of those local students who have been inspiring change in their community. Our Program Coordinator, Emily Pickett, first met Shiqi and Naiara in 2016 and supported them in co-founding a Meatless Monday Club at their school, Sutherland Secondary, helping to promote plant-based menu changes in order to help animals. Since 2016, their club has led a highly successful Meatless Monday campaign, with the growing demand for plant-based menu items leading to their school’s food service provider to commit to transitioning 20 percent of the daily menu to plant-based foods!
Shiqi and Naiara also presented their Meatless Monday work to the North Vancouver School Board, asking for a letter of support, which the board enthusiastically provided. They were also successful in getting a student choice policy for animal dissection implemented in the school district, with support from the Animals in Science Policy Institute. The student choice policy allows students to opt out of animal dissection and participate in alternative learning methods.
All that said, it came as no surprise to us that Shiqi was recently awarded the prestigious Loran scholarship of $100,000 to go toward her undergraduate studies. She intends to study bioengineering and wants to help develop biotechnology that will save lives while replacing animals used in testing.
“I am proud of the work Naiara and I have done in promoting healthy, sustainable eating in our school and school district, with VHS’ support,” says Shiqi. “Not only has this experience allowed me to build my leadership skills, but it also played a central role in igniting my passion for sustainability and animal rights. In my bioengineering endeavours in the future, my goal is to help improve the lives of both people and animals.”
We have no doubt that Shiqi and Naiara will go on to do great things for animals, people and the planet after they graduate this year, and that they will leave an inspiring legacy for the next generation of students set to take over the Meatless Monday Club, who we too look forward to working with!