The saying “Keep an open mind” has been my mantra since I started my vegan journey four years ago. Never in a million years would I have ever thought that I would be vegan, let alone writing for a vegan blog! What began as a crusade in optimal health after the diagnosis of my mother’s cancer, turned into a lifelong passion in helping others while honoring my mom’s legacy. Every Vegan comes from their own place of why they chose this lifestyle, yet it is impossible to ignore the other reasons as well as become passionate for those causes.
This past fall, I attended Main Street Vegan Academy to become a Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator. I was originally attracted to the program so that I could help others as a coach. After all, I love to cook and it seemed like a natural fit. What I discovered was the topics that I thought I would be less interesting, turned out to be absolutely fascinating. In fact, it made me rethink my mission in how to help others. I was in awe at so many of the speakers that spoke with a passion, yet without judgment. So often I felt as if light bulbs were exploding over my head. I thought about activism in terms of outreach and education and I haven’t felt this exhilarated since I was a naïve, idealistic college student, ready to take on the world.
A few weeks after the course ended I was on Facebook where a job posting appeared. It was a part-time opportunity to be a humane educator. The requirements included:
- Being vegan
- Extensive knowledge about the animal agriculture industry, plant-based food benefits and related environmental issues
- Education/teaching experience desired but not required
- Must enjoy working with teenagers and young adults
- Enthusiastic and positive!
- Flexible schedule.
- Must be able to work a minimum of 2 days a week during school hours
- Must share our philosophy of non-judgmental, non-confrontational and respectful dialogue
This job description was written for me! I immediately decided to apply and sent my resume along with a cover letter. I was offered the job and a few short weeks later I was en route to Atlanta for training to become a Humane Educator with Ethical Choices Program. I arrived on a Thursday afternoon, took a nap and met my new bosses and fellow educators in the lobby.
The next three days that followed were filled with more information than my brain could process! We learned about how to present information to young adults about their food choices and how that affects their health, the environment and the animals. We also learned about the information we were presenting to the students so that could feel more comfortable speaking to the students. The presentations as well the presenters did an amazing job of providing information without bias or judgment. It was made clear that we are not there to tell the students what they should be eating. We are simply there to provide information so that they can make their own choices based on their own ethics, values and beliefs.
The presentations are so well designed to provide education by helping students draw their own conclusions. Our supervisors gave the presentations with such compassion. Our entire class sat in amazement. Every slide is referenced by well-known and accepted institutions or organizations. I think I could speak for my classmates that we were so nervous that we could never present with such poise and knowledge. It seemed like there was so much information to tackle. Slowly, but surely we began to break down the information and made it our own.
Ethical Choices Program is the brain-child of Lorena Mucke. Lorena is one of the kindest, smartest people I’ve met. She is always so positive and has more energy than anyone. She is literally half my size (I’m 5’10), but she could run circles around me. She was such an inspiration to think that she started giving these talks because she wanted to empower kids with knowledge and choice. The mission of Ethical Choices Program is “to educate high school and college students about food choices, inspiring them to make decisions that are consistent with their own values as related to human health, the environment and animals. By providing factual, mainstream information and promoting respectful dialogue, students are encouraged to think critically about the impact of their choices.”
Similar to Main Street Vegan Academy, I met the most amazing people who came from all over the country and Canada. We were liked minded and for many people, this was the first time they met people who had similar values. For some, they had never met another vegan. It amazed me how you could have close to 20 people share three exhilarating and exhausting days together and feel so connected. We were a mix of religions, races, regions and cultures yet the one common thread that weaved us together was compassion. In reality, we had more that connected us. We were passionate about educating and inspiring others.
I am proud to call myself a humane educator and I look forward to inspiring the next generation to make choices that will improve their health, the environment and the welfare of animals.
Lauren Gladstone, VLCE is a humane educator with Ethical Choices Program. She also is a food coach and holds food demonstrations to teach people how to eat plant based. She has an MPA in Health Management and holds certificates in Plant Based Nutrition from Cornell University and Rouxbe Cooking School. Follow Lauren at CoolasaCuke on Twitter and Instagram, and at Cool As A Cucumber on Facebook. Check out her blog at www.coolasacuke.com