Originally published in Teachhumane.org on October 14, 2015.
At HEART, we are always excited to share stories of youth who inspire us. Chelsea Alonzo, from the Bronx in New York, first participated in the Have a HEART Summer Camp when she was 11 years old, and she and her family have been involved with HEART ever since. Chelsea is a senior in high school now, and she most recently volunteered with us this past summer, helping to teach students in 1st – 8th grades.
It has been amazing to watch Chelsea grow into the incredibly poised young woman that she is today. She spoke to an audience of 450 people at the humane education conference we co-sponsored in 2013 at NYU Law School titled “Educating for a Just, Peaceful, and Sustainable Future.” Chelsea described the amazing impact that humane education has had on her life. She is wise beyond her years, filled with compassion for others, and extremely driven to make a difference in the world.
We took some time to interview Chelsea to find out what humane education means to her and why she wanted to volunteer for HEART.
What did you like most about being a camper in the the Have a HEART Camp?
“I enjoyed all the hands on activities and videos we watched on the lessons. I personally like to ask myself, ‘What did I not learn?’ HEART exposed me to so many issues in the world like child labor, farm sanctuaries, puppy mills, animal shelters, ways to eat healthy, and so many other humane topics.”
Did the Have a HEART Camp influence any of your attitudes or behaviors toward issues affecting the world?
“HEART Camp influenced the majority of my behaviors. For example, adopting instead of purchasing puppies from the pet shop, recycling and reusing items to keep our home clean, making sure my food and clothes come from places where the people doing the work are getting paid fairly, and also becoming a vegetarian.”
When did you volunteer as a counselor for the Have a HEART Camp, and why did you decide to volunteer?
“[When I] was 13…I volunteered to be a counselor for HEART… because I enjoyed being a camper so much that I wanted other students to have the same experience as me…HEART has done so much for me…it is always important to give back…”
How would you describe your experience as a Have a HEART Camp counselor?
“I honestly love teaching with HEART because I know that what I’m teaching is going to change behaviors, and slowly we can all change the world. I enjoy working with kids and learning from the other HEART instructors.”
Why did you decide to volunteer with HEART at the Graham Windham Beacon Summer Camp this year?
“…I wanted to spend my extra free time help[ing ] teach kids about humane education…, expos[ing] them to some of the most important issues of the world, and devis[ing] ways to help them change it.”
How would you describe your experience with the summer camp this year?
“The kids I worked with…were all engaged and very involved in the lessons. I loved to see their compassion towards farm[ed] and wild animals. I also enjoyed working with the other HEART instructors and learned so much from them.”
If you could give any advice to other youth your age, what would it be?
“My advice to other youth my age is there are far worse problems in the world than not getting the latest pair of sneakers. It’s important to get exposed to problems like child labor and other cruelties animals face. Our world is slowly deteriorating and if we don’t work together to slowly improve it, sooner or later we [will not] have a clean world.”
What are your plans for the future?
“For now, my plans for the future are getting into a great college where I can pursue my dream of becoming a doctor and…helping poor countries. I would also love to travel and learn from other cultures.”
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
“I would like to thank HEART for exposing me to issues that affect our everyday lives…the solution is in our hands. We just have to teach others, and together we can make a difference.”