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April 23, 2010

Bronx Students Empowered to Be Voices for Animals

At the “Make a Change” conference, students get the tools they need to fight animal cruelty

  • New York state director Patrick Kwan talks to students about stopping animal abuse. The HSUS

  • Patrick meets with members of the Children's Aid Society's Youth Council. The HSUS

  • Youth Council members cheer after presenting their anti-cruelty video. The HSUS

The Children's Aid Society, a well-respected nonprofit in New York City that has served the city's neediest children for more than 150 years, recently held their "Make a Change" conference in the Bronx. Junior high students and members of the Youth Council reached out to The Humane Society of the United States for someone to speak on animal cruelty to address the theme of this year's conference: violence in the community.

Patrick Kwan, now New York state director for The HSUS, was a 1999 recipient of the React magazine/New World Foundation youth leadership awards and received a prize of $50,000 worth of school supplies to go to a charity of his choice. He chose the Children's Aid Society. "Needless to say, I'm a big fan of their work," said Kwan.

Kwan was more than happy to speak at the conference, which had more than 200 students and parents in attendance. He led workshops on the work of The HSUS, with a focus on animal fighting and the animal cruelty-human violence connection.

"When I asked the students in my workshops how many of them personally know of animal fighting in their Bronx community, or know someone who does, more than seventy-five percent of them raised their hands," said Kwan.

Local solutions to large problems

The young people showed that they are aware of the problems and are committed to making a difference. Youth Council member Melissa Silvestre attended one of the workshops. "Since animals don't have a voice, we can protest on their behalf!" she said.

"Patrick informed us that you can call the police anonymously so you don't have to be scared to help prevent dogfighting," said Youth Council member Alice Rodriguez.

"Since animals don't have a voice, we can protest on their behalf!" - Melissa Silvestre, student

Mobilized to create change, the youth leaders produced a video public service announcement on animal cruelty that was shown to the entire conference. "Even though the violence surrounding them is heart-breaking, it's heartening to see that they are all so committed to helping stop animal cruelty and violence in their community," said Kwan.

What you can do to help

Youth Council members were given actions they can take to help, including the Combat Cruelty project. One option in the project is to put up posters to help expose dogfighting. The HSUS provides a reward of up to $5,000 for tips leading to dogfighting convictions. Students can request a free End Dogfighting Reward Action Pack, which includes posters, brochures, and stickers. Everyone who completes the project earns a 'Be KIND' wristband.

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