Finding the Motivation for My Activism at YEA Camp

By Elyanna Calle

There is a reason why we care. There is an event or a person that has enlightened us, who has taught us to care. I sat down at YEA Camp trying to remember, and I knew right away.

My brother was the kindest person I ever knew. His smile lit up the room and his laugh was contagious. He was also the strongest. Constant hospitalizations and medical procedures seemed to not phase him as he fought hard but still managed to radiate positivity. So when he passed away at the young age of 3, something changed within me. He taught me compassion, strength, and courage better than anyone else could have, and I just knew it was my job to help others.

Why do you care? Why do you fight for justice?

I ask this, because after all the rejection, the failure, the disappointment, and the times when you fall, the answer is why you pick yourself back up. It is why every day you walk back out into this unjust world and continue to fight.

Find this reason and hold onto it.

That is one of the many epiphanies that I had during my week at YEA Camp. I learned countless new ideas and lessons. Issues that had never crossed my mind were brought to my attention. I made lifelong friends who are more like family. Last but not least, I made a plan.

Elyanna speaking into a bullhorn for the first time at a protest!

I will be starting an animal rights club at my school. My goal is to do vegan outreach with students and ultimately educate the public about the harms of animal agriculture, and cruelty of consuming, using, or wearing animals. This will include documentary screenings with free vegan food, giving out free vegan food in exchange for watching a short video, implementing more vegan food in the cafeteria, ending dissection, and did I mention free vegan food?!

I have many details to work out, but I know where to start and who to talk to thanks to what I learned. I’m not scared to fail because I will continue improving. My longer-term goal is to create a “Vegan Teens” group in my city.

I will also be taking advantage of any conversation I can have about this issue, writing letters to companies about what they need to change, leafleting, doing street activism, and using my social media to spread awareness.

When I got home from camp, everyone asked me, “How was it?”

My answer every time was: “Amazing.” I found it hard to sum up an extremely educational, incredibly fun, insanely inspirational, and life-changing week into one brief conversation. There was just something about it. YEA Camp is something you must experience yourself.

Maybe it’s the seclusion in the woods or the amazing food, or the sense of community. I’m a passionate person but before I attended YEA Camp I didn’t know how to utilize my passion, where to focus my energy, and I did not believe in myself.

I left YEA camp saying “ I’m going to change the world” and I knew I had all my new friends beside me saying the same thing. Because it’s true. If it’s anyone, it’s going to be us. We are going out into the world and voicing our concerns and our solutions, and people are listening. We are rising up to the occasion. Watch out injustice! We are coming for you.

Elyanna Calle is 16 years old and came all the way from San Antonio, Texas, to attend YEA Camp in Massachusetts.

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