Joshua Pipe seems like he’s been coming to YEA Camp for many years, but he really just made a big impression at his two sessions and has stayed in touch ever since. Josh is the type of 15-year-old who mentions Supreme Court cases you’ve never heard of (remember Hazelwood v Kuhlmeier?) in passing conversation and who led a fundraising training for the Board of Directors of an organization he volunteers with when he was 13, and tells you these things like they are no big deal.
We were excited to have this future Supreme Court Justice (if there is any justice) share his thoughts and experience about activism with us.
YEA Camp: Hey Josh, Tell us about the activism you do.
Joshua Pipe: I do a lot of work with an organization called Labrador Hill Sanctuary, which is about thirty minutes from my house. It’s the permanent home to about 50-or-so equines and it’s almost all open pasture, which is amazing. I’m the Chairperson of the Youth Volunteer Corps, so I get the task of organizing youth volunteers, as well as doing intake for new volunteers of all ages. In my role as chairperson, I’m also a liaison to the Board of Directors, so I work really closely with the Board to plan fundraisers, handle administrative tasks, etc. My tasks vary a lot from month to month because small non-profits are pretty unpredictable in their demands, so there are some months where I’ll be circulating press releases to local news organizations; some months, I’ll be writing invitations and sponsorship letters; some months, I get to do a bit of video editing; it really all depends.
YEA: Awesome! How did you get involved with activism?
JP: My mom definitely was the person who kickstarted Activist Josh 1.0. She worked with the ASPCA for a while when I was younger and really instilled in me the value of working toward a world where non-human animals are treated no differently than human animals. But YEA Camp really was what taught me that it’s possible to do it at any age. There are a lot of ageist messages out there, unfortunately, that kids can’t change the world, and YEA Camp reminds us that we can. I’m currently working on improving my grant-writing skills so I can work with other members of the Board of Lab Hill to write grants, because, you know, money is a pretty good thing to have when you’re a nonprofit.
YEA: Awww! What challenges have you faced as an activist?
JP: My biggest challenge as an activist is definitely battling nerves. My hands still shake writing emails and my heart still races whenever I pick up the phone. Ultimately, you have to keep your goal in mind. Whenever I’m making a call, I picture every horse in the world being safe from slaughter, which helps a lot. I’m also pretty insecure and it took me a really long time to not let that keep me from doing things. Sometimes, taking a step back or even phoning a friend really helps get your mind away from insecurity.
YEA: Wow! What other advice to you have for activists who are just starting out?
JP: Learn how to tell a story and learn how to get your message across clearly. Stories hold incredible power in our society. Stories stick with people, and if you tell them well, they make people think. You also need to learn how to deliver a message loudly and clearly. If people can’t understand you, they’re not going to listen. Earl Warren, when he wrote the majority opinion in Brown v. Board of Education, made sure it could be understood by anyone who could read a newspaper. Why? Because he knew his message could change the world (and it did), and he wanted people to know, in no uncertain terms, what that message was. Your message has that same power. You have the power to change the world with your message. Make sure people can hear you, and that they can understand you.
YEA: How did YEA Camp help you in your activism, if it did?
JP: YEA Camp gave me the determination and the inspiration to really get out there. It taught me that we young people can change the world, and we will change the world. It also allowed me to form a network of the most incredible human beings on the face of the Earth. We all make each other better activists and better human beings.
Another thing YEA Camp taught me, going to my point above, was how to make an elevator pitch. It’s something we work on tirelessly. In writing, after the first six sentences is the point where people start to skim. Similarly, after about 45 seconds, people start to zone out. So you have to make your words count, and getting practice at that was really helpful in my work as an activist and as a student journalist, because I am not naturally succinct (as evidenced by the fact that I have already cut this down by a good 200 words).
YEA: What are some of your future activist plans?
JP: I’m trying to get into some students press rights movements. Especially with everything that’s going on in the world today, student press, and more importantly, free student press, I think, becomes more and more important. And, unfortunately, student journalism isn’t always unrestricted. Hazelwood v Kuhlmeier allows administrators to censor articles relating to some heavy topics, and I’ve heard horror stories from some other schools in my state about newspapers being shut down for a year or so. So, I’m planning on calling a lot of lawmakers about the New Voices legislation that serves to bring student journalism out from under the feet of administrators, and hopefully, getting involved with the Student Press Law Center, which fights a lot of the legal battles over student censorship.
Joshua Pipe is a 15 year-old student journalist and activist who attended YEA Camp in the summers of 2015 and 2016.
Activism can look so many different ways! If you’re passionate about the law or education or animals, like Josh mentioned, or other causes like climate change, racism, gun control, or another important social justice issue, join us at YEA Camp this summer.