Tayler was the Student Activist of the Month for June 2014!
Name: Tayler Jensen
School: Fossil Ridge High School
Year in school: Freshman
Club name: VegAlliance
Position with club: President and Founder
Why are you vegan? Why do you promote veganism?
I had always wanted to go vegetarian, but my family was worried about us not getting our “protein” and all of the other pitfalls that people believe when they haven’t researched a vegetarian/vegan diet. A couple years ago, we watched a movie called Forks Over Knives, and it sparked a reaction to research veganism and learn about the impact it has on ones health, the environment, and animals. We all came to a consensus, and decided to try veganism for 30 days as part of a self challenge. The start was actually really easy. We went to the store and bought a couple vegan cookbooks and Rip Esselstyn‘s My Beef With Meat. I mostly fell in place with all of the health impacts that being vegan has at first, and now am involved with animal rights and human rights to health through a vegan diet.
What are your hobbies outside of the veg club?
I love to garden, work, explore new things, draw and paint, sculpt, cook, try new foods, volunteer, exercise, and a lot more!
I am also involved in many organizations at my school including I am a Vice President of French Club, Secretary of FCCLA (business club), I am a Member of FRESH, which is a environmental club, Member of Key Club (volunteer group), and have been elected for Student Council of my Sophomore year! I am also involved outside of school in my church and community.
What are you studying in school and what do you want to do in the future as a career?
Right now, I am in high school, and I take a lot of Pre AP classes, but when I graduate I want to go to Cornell University in New York to pursue a degree in plant based nutrition, and become a nutritionist.
How did your family react to your veganism?
My family was really supportive of us being vegan. My mom, dad, brother, and I all did it together and I have received so much support from all of them. We elevated any problem with staying with friends and family by packing tons of delicious food, and I can say proudly that my meat loving grandparents now enjoy veggie burgers!
How do your friends react to your veganism?
My friends were really cool with me being vegan, especially when I learned to hack the menu at any restaurant to get amazingly delicious food that is totally plant based.
How is the vegan scene at your school?
Our school is pretty vegan friendly, especially with my addition of Veggie Burgers in the school cafeteria. A lot of people are immature, but I am ok with that, especially with the bounds and leaps that my club has accomplished. We have a ton of supportive people as well, and it is great to benefit others lives with teaching them the benefits of a plant based diet.
How long has your club been around?
VegAlliance has been going since around December. In that time, we have accomplished a ton, and have done a lot of things! Next year will be even better, and I am looking forward to making a lasting impact.
What types of events and activities have you planned?
With VegAlliance, we concentrate ourselves on showing people the benefits of a plant based diet through samplings, leafleting, and coaching others and giving positive reinforcement. We make it easy by giving out vegan starter guides with coupons that our sponsors provide. We also have weekly meetings, where I give presentations and we have discussions about veganism related topics.
What have been your biggest challenges?
Picking out times for food tastings would have to be the hardest thing that I have faced running VegAlliance. There are a lot of school policies that prevent us doing bake sales or tastings during lunch, so it’s a little disappointing; but we have thought of creative and fun ideas to combat this.
What has been your biggest mistake?
One of the biggest mistakes that I have made is not starting VegAlliance sooner! It has been such a amazing experience, and I am so blessed to be the head of this awesome organization!
What was your favorite activity or event?
One of my favorite events I have hosted is when we had a film screening for the movie Forks Over Knives. We has a great turnout of many people that we had never even seen before, and it was a great way to promote outreach and grow membership of our group. We also had the best vegan food ever there, and it was a contemplation of all of our sponsors. Students were able to try new things and then get coupons so they could try them out for their own family as well. It was a great educational event.
What has been the club’s biggest success?
I find that our biggest success that we have accomplished so far is the relationship we have grown between students, our sponsors, faculty, and each other. This has allowed us to be unique, because even though my club is very large, we all know each other and always have people to share new recipes with. It is a great group, and we have become a new model of community.
Who has been your biggest inspiration? Have any books or philosophies or people been important to you?
My biggest inspiration would have to be T Collin Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn. They both led me into the world of plant based eating, and I am so thankful for all of their books. Inspiration can be found everywhere, and I find mine in them and others like Kristina(fullyraw) and Happy Herbivore. They are such great heartfelt people and their influence on me and many others has led me to strive for success and improve myself.
Why is in-school activism important?
Student activism is the most important thing we need in our society today. It is a vital and crucial component to change, because students are the start of change. We have so many different things blaring in our minds 24/7 and whenever you unite a jumbled group of teens and/or kids, you can change the future and start a new type of culture beginning from the bases. We have some of the loudest voices, and have the largest potential for change. It is the most influential thing one can do.
Do you have any tips for youth who want to go vegetarian or vegan?
My biggest advice for anyone who wants to change their lifestyle, I would recommend to surround yourself with positive influences and plant based friendly resources. When you constantly see happiness and vegan recipes, information, and others that are following the lifestyle you want to be apart of, your inner conscious leads you to the path that you want to follow. Like pages on Facebook like Happy Herbivore, Plantbuilt, and FullyRaw. Also, get in a group with like minded people, or even better start one yourself! It is the best decision I have ever made.
What advice do you have for other youth activists?
For any aspiring activists out there, just do it! Every action that you complete causes a chain reaction, that will effect more people that you could even imagine. Every day, your actions have the potential to help human health, the environment, and animals. The possibilities are endless, and when you use your passions (like arts or speaking or writing of sports) to help spread new ideas of veganism or animal rights you unlock your full potential. Keep to it, and you can go to great heights and change the world.