By Helia Zarkhosh, RedRover Communications Coordinator
What does a typical day look like for RedRover staff members? How do we answer the call for help when people have nowhere else to turn? In our new series, “Leading with Empathy: Behind the Scenes at RedRover,” we share staff stories about our efforts to bring animals from crisis to care.
In this feature, Education Coordinator Tara Lenehan shares her recent experience speaking to a class of seventh graders about youth activism.
Last month, Tara was contacted by fellow educator and RedRover’s Education Advisor Sarah Kesty about discussing youth activism with Sarah’s students. While Tara isn’t directly involved in youth activism through her role at RedRover, many of our Junior Advisory Board members are. Tara invited board member Krithi, a seventh-grader and Kind News Humane Hero heavily involved in humanitarian and animal welfare causes, to present to the class with her.
“We discussed ways that [the students] can help…not just for animal causes, but to be brave and speak up about things that matter in their own lives in ways that were exciting for them. For example, Krithi suggested that students who love to write could write about something important to them; or if they love photography, to experiment with visual storytelling.
“Whatever is important in your life or if there’s a problem you want to fix or something you don’t agree with, you can always speak up and be brave about it.”
Krithi also shared her personal experience with animal activism, including how she helped spare the life of “Joe” the pigeon who accidentally hitched a ride on a freight boat and ended up all the way in Australia as an unwelcome non-native species!
Discussing this topic with kids goes far beyond any one classroom for Tara:
“Youth activism matters because [kids] are our future. It’s really important to show them that they don’t have to wait until they’re an adult to speak up, to give them the authority to be brave and really speak about what’s important to them, all while knowing that adults have their back.”
Tara’s focus when engaging with kids is to empower them by “giving them the confidence to lead with their opinions and feel like people are listening to them.” And it’s something she wishes she had when she was younger, too. She says, “I go through my work thinking about what I would have wanted when I was a kid and how I can be that person to the kids I work with now. So when I see incredible kids like Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai essentially leading movements, it makes me excited about the future. I want to help any kid who comes through the RedRover Readers program or into my life to feel that way, too.”
Tara says that her hope for any student who engages with Kind News and RedRover Readers is “that they can ultimately begin to understand that all humans and all animals are sentient, that we all feel, and that we all deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.”
Tara goes on, “With Kind News and RedRover Readers, we start at a very basic level in talking about pets because that’s what a lot of kids see in their lives or are familiar with. Asking them how these animals might be feeling could potentially open up an entire conversation about different, less familiar types of animals, and we hope that they start thinking about themselves and their peers as well. So it’s really about helping them take the perspective of other people and animals.”
The students appreciate Tara’s approach, too. After her visit to Sarah’s class, Tara received heartwarming messages of gratitude:
“Thank you for visiting our class. It was interesting to learn about how we could help animals. I feel inspired because I have a dog and I would love to help other animals have a good home like mine.” – Aliza
“Thank you for visiting our class. It was cool because you help animals and pets. I was inspired also because kids could be heroes, too.” – Michelle
And much of Tara’s efforts to be a positive influence for the kids in our program means working closely with educators. Her favorite aspect of connecting with teachers? Learning together – especially about different ways to interact with and reach students. It’s a collaborative effort to share resources, ideas, and different approaches to teaching.
Interested in learning more? Join us on March 18 for a Q&A about the RedRover Readers program >>
Behind the Scenes
Beauty in our roots: My journey to animal welfare and humane education
A journey of kindness: How one little organization is making a big difference
Humane Hero Rashad Evans on youth activism
Five Animal-Themed Books to Celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month