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CATHOLIC CONCERN FOR ANIMALS

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Our Lady of Hope Students S.H.O.U.T. OUT for A Religious Proclamation for Animal Compassion!

Student Group Demonstrates Exceptional Leadership for Animals!

June 2, 2008 : 6:46 PM
by Michelle Buckalew, Best Friends Multifaith Outreach Program

There is an amazing group of emerging leaders at Our Lady of Hope School in Middle Village, New York, who wanted to do something significant to help the animals of the world. With the true spirit of youth and a can-do attitude, this small but powerful group of dedicated students collected hundreds of signatures at their parochial school for “A Religious Proclamation for Compassion.”

At a gathering facilitated by Best Friends Animal Society last summer, "A Religious Proclamation for Animal Compassion," was the work of a collective of more than thirty faith leaders representing over twenty faith traditions and was unveiled in Washington, D.C.'s historic Cannon Caucus Room last November 7th.

The group of students, named S.H.O.U.T. (Students Helping Others --- United Together), has quite an impressive resume of compassionate accomplishments. Here is their story below, beginning with the joy-filled group co-leaders, Adriana and Julie, sharing with us how they got started.

"Our teacher suggested, that if we wanted to help animals, we should consider Best Friends Animal Society,” said Adriana. When the students went online to research Best Friends, they found, “A Religious Proclamation for Animal Compassion,” discussed it with their teacher and determined that Best Friends would be a great group to support. “Our teacher, Ms. LeClerc then took it to our principal,” said Julie, “who gave us the go ahead to begin working on our project."

The result is that the students of S.H.O.U.T. collected over 400 signatures for the Proclamation at their school, Our Lady of Hope!

After the completion of the project, Kris Haley, Manager of the Best Friends’ Multifaith Outreach Program, sat down with Ms. LeClerc, teacher at Our Lady of Hope parochial school in New York and founder of S.H.O.U.T. and the two student group co-leaders, representing their fellow classmates, to ask a few questions about what inspired them to embark upon this project:

BF – “Why was Best Friends your charity of choice?”

Adriana – “It was really Julie’s idea…we both love animals. We put posters of the proclamation all around the school!”

Julie – “Yes, it was great! We explained everything to the teachers in advance and they taught it to their students. We even had a give-away of animal erasers for the students to make it kind of a game.”

BF – “So you even had a marketing strategy?”

Julie – “It was fun and we wanted to get the kids interested.”

BF – “How did you feel when you saw things coming together?”

Adriana – “It was great and I was kind of moved. We had to make more signature sheets when everyone started to sign!”

Julie – “It was very rewarding. The kids got involved and became aware. They know…but they don’t always care. It felt good to accomplish our goals.”

BF – “How do you think your work might inspire other kids to do something similar? What advice would you give them?”

Julie – “Start locally with parishes to pick up on the work that we have begun.”

Adriana – “Find kids who are interested and bring them together…be sure to make it fun, interesting and not boring so that both teachers and students will want to learn!”

BF – “What is your advice to teachers who may be hesitant to allow their students to do what you did?”

Adriana & Julie – “Ask them to at least make the attempt; they’ll be surprised at the response. Sometimes we sell things short. Don’t assume that it will be a problem. Whenever we found a block, we just figured out a way to work around it.”

The interview concluded with a few questions for teacher and S.H.O.U.T. founder, Ms. Christine Leclerc:

BF- “How did you feel about the work of your students?”

“Best Friends Animal Society has been close to my heart for many years and I have sponsored animals there. I think what they have done is fantastic…phenomenal…and will inspire many other students to follow in their footsteps. I cannot imagine what amazing things they will do when they get to high school!

We started by focusing on Best Friends and then found the Religious Proclamation for Animal Compassion which we felt was long overdue. We all felt that it is important for the world…helping animals protects them and our planet.”

BF- “Did you have any difficulty convincing your school principal about moving forward with the project?”

“We have a wonderful principal who is very supportive of our students and faculty and who stands behind our projects, knowing that they have been fully researched in advance.”

While marveling at the broad and creative way in which this small group moved mountains for animals, we wondered what parting words they might have for fellow students who might like to follow in their footsteps. “Outreach,” said Julie, “…it’s so important to reach out to others to make change. Get other students involved!” “Spread the word,” added Adrianna. “Take the message to schools in different parishes and ask them to do the same!”

And, as if they hadn’t done enough, these amazing students have created a document that can actually help fellow students around the world to follow their example! Please visit Best Friends Animals & Religion Network Community at http://www.network.bestfriends.org/religion  and click on the STUDENT TOOLKIT in the RESOURCES section, to download a copy of the S.H.O.U.T.'s Student Project Sheet. It is a wonderful resource that can be utilized by individual students and student groups alike, to accomplish the same outstanding result.

This exceptional level of leadership deserves acknowledgment…so students were thrilled when a personal letter from Best Friends’ Michael Mountain arrived in the mail, congratulating them for a job well done!

This amazing group of dedicated students truly defines Gandhi's statement inviting us to, "Be the change we wish to see in the world." While raised voices are usually not a positive thing…when it comes to the 8th grade students at Our Lady of Hope, it is pretty safe to say that it is absolutely O.K.…even encouraged…to S.H.O.U.T.!!!!!!!!!!!!!

               What you can do:

1. Read and endorse the online version of A Religious Proclamation for Animal Compassion at Sign Here

2. Visit the Animals & Religion Network Community at http://www.network.bestfriends.org/religion  and click on the RESOURCES tab to access and download the Student Tool Kit contents for your classroom. And while you’re there, consider becoming a member of the Community to stay informed on the latest news, forums, blogs and Webinar offerings in the world of Animals & Religion.

3. Share this story with educators and students in your school or community.

4. Become a dedicated volunteer for Best Friends Animals & Religion program and help us grow awareness for the animals in faith communities across the nation.

Photo courtesy of Our Lady of Hope School. For more information about Our Lady of Hope School, visit: http://www.ourladyofhopeschool.org 

Reprinted with the permission of Best Friends Animal Society.

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