YEA Camp

Camper Interview: “I probably would have just been in the crowd with everyone else complaining.”

10629364_764220346953349_7312786443164990861_o (3)At YEA Camp, we urge campers to get active on social justice causes that they are passionate about, whether it be the environment, human rights, animals rights, or another important cause.

Recently one of our campers, Kakari Boateng, 16, of Sacramento, who cares about many different causes, launched an online petition on Change.org about an issue at his school.  At the end of the school year, Kakari’s school announced that it would be starting a new dress code in the fall. He had many concerns about this and so decided to do something about it. He’s already generated over 700 signatures on the petition — most of which are from people in the community who agree and are personally affected — and caught the attention of the administration, whom has since met with him.

Some people may not recognize the social justice implications of this issue, so we wanted to find out from Kakari himself what motivated him to get involved on this.

Note that Kakari attended YEA Camp last year on a scholarship funded by the Sacramento Vegetarian Society, and that he is fundraising to return to YEA Camp this summer (we are so glad!). You can support him here.

YEA: Why do you think the issue of your school implementing a dress code is important?

KB: I feel the issue of the school implementing a new dress code is important because the School Board did things without the consent of the students, and honestly things probably would have turned out better if they considered us or our parents in the staff meetings that occurred about it.

The school is requiring the students to buy clothes from the student store, and sometimes their clothes are costly. Even though the school doesn’t make money from it (they sell the clothes for the same price they pay), people like to have other options for pants. Some people also wear hand-me-downs from their big brothers or sisters who have graduated, so to say that “you can’t wear those pants ” would put a dent in their pockets.

On top of that students that comply with the current dress code already feel safe and comfortable with what they wear, so when the school announced even more changes on top of that, it could possibly exploit personal insecurities about themselves.

In the end, I feel as if it’s less about the dress code but the issue I had was with the morality of what they did.

YEA: You mention in the petition that the students are concerned about other issues you feel are more needed than a dress code. What are some of those important issues?

KB: Besides dress code, students are concerned about other issues such as not having a consistent principal, or a consistent roster of teachers. Many of the staff are leaving and whenever students try to come together and settle things in a professional organized matter, they are disregarded.

YEA: How have students raised these issues to the school administration, and what has their reaction been?

KB: Usually when students try to bring issues to the board, their thoughts are taken into consideration, but are not acted upon even though there is clearly an ongoing issue. The process is actually quite tiresome.

YEA: Are students at your school active in voicing their opinions? Why or why not, do you think?

KB: Students are active in voicing their opinions, but usually those opinions are not voiced in a positive or professional manner. I think it sparks from some type of popular thing about how it’s more fun to complain about an issue that they have instead of trying to fix it.

YEA: The petition has been so successful in such a short time! You got over 700 signatures in just the first week, and there are hundreds of supportive comments that people wrote, which really shows how many people agree with you on this. How have you gotten so many people to sign the petition?

KB: Smiles and lots of enthusiasm! I shared it online at first, then my friends shared it around, then showed it to their parents, and it kept getting shared. I’ve been talking to people about it, and people just ask me for the link or I tell them about it. All it takes is positivity.

YEA: What else have you done to oppose the dress code, and what’s next with this effort?

This week I spoke at a meeting the principal held for families to discuss this and other issues, and I met the superintendent whom I’m going to be talking with again about this. We had a little conversation and we got along really well. We both shared our points of view and how we felt about things going on during school. I’ll be going to another meeting about this in 2 weeks. When I created the petition, little did I know I would have this influence.

YEA: Has YEA Camp helped you in your activist efforts on this petition or in other ways? If so, how?

KB: Oh if I didn’t go to YEA Camp, I most definitely would have never thought of the petition or try to take action to change things in the system. I probably would have just been in the crowd with everyone else complaining. But at the camp, I was taught that the one lone nut dancing about in an open field, not doing what everybody else is doing, really draws attention, and if used right, that can be for the better.

We are so proud that Kakari is speaking up on this issue that affects him and other students in a way their school is not considering. Please sign!

We are so grateful that Kakari came to YEA Camp last year thanks to a scholarship from the Sacramento Vegetarian Society, and so we know SVS will be proud for him too! SVS is sponsoring more campers this year, so if you know anyone who would be interested and a great fit, learn more here — the deadline is soon!

Kakari is raising funds for his return to YEA Camp this summer to take what he got last year to the next level. Please support him here!