By: Lauren Pineda
Have you ever heard of the Animal Rights Club? Maybe you remember their bake sale when d.tech was still at Rollins Road, or more recently, their posters promoting fundraisers. This club, one of d.tech’s more popular, was started last year by Junior Hezekiah Smithstein.
Smithstein was first introduced to an animal rights club as a freshman at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco, because his sister, who was a senior at the time, was head of the club. When he came to d.tech as a sophomore, he was inspired by how student-driven the clubs were, and decided to start his own animal rights club.
Smithstein has been passionate about animal rights his whole life. Apparently, it started with his natural care for the environment, which lead to his concern for animal related issues, like deforestation, (habitat loss), endangered species, and factory farming. He’s also been vegetarian all his life, but it’s not required to be vegetarian to be part of the club. He says, “You don’t have to be vegetarian to be in the club because you can still help animals, but I do encourage people to become vegetarian.”
In the beginning, the club met once a week in Mr. Fenner’s Chemistry classroom at the Rollins Road campus. Smithstein remembers the first day: “The first meeting was held in the parking lot, because I couldn’t find a room, but it was still really nice. More people showed up than I thought, which made me really excited.” Today, the club meets for one period on lab days in either Ms. Anderson’s or Mr. Pierce’s breakout rooms. There are about ten to fifteen members, but some are more consistent than others. However, according to Smithstein, even people who don’t come to all the meetings can help the club reach its goal.
Smithstein explained the club’s three-part goal: outreach, such as providing for an organization or charity that needs resources, (which can sometimes, but not always mean monetary support), fundraising for organizations, and volunteering at a shelter or organization, which Smithstein says is the hardest, because most members of the club are not old enough to volunteer on their own. He says, “Most organizations need you to be at least sixteen, which kind of sucks, because I think fourteen-year olds are quite capable of doing things on their own.”
Despite this issue, the club already has accomplishments that can be, according to Smithstein, “crossed off the list”, such as running the awareness campaign for the World Wildlife Fund, having a successful bake sale (before bake sales were banned), and recently, fundraising for the Marine Mammal Center by selling bracelets (which, by the way, are still available for four dollars).
Something that has become challenging for the club leader is figuring out what to do next. Smithstein says, “It’s important to keep moving forward, picking something to do, and just going for it.” In addition to this challenge, club member and junior Jessica Baggott, says the club has also faced low productivity. She says, “The main issue is that we don’t spend enough time as we’d like on it.” Baggott says they would like to have monthly fundraisers, but it’s hard to keep the club to that standard. Club member and junior Maria McAlister-Young says the club doesn’t have equal support from all the members: “People support animal rights, but not everyone is as passionate about it as Hezekiah is.” McAlister-Young says she plans on participating in the club through senior year, because she feels it really makes a difference, but she’s not too sure how it will work out, since she will only have to be on campus for one class.
Speaking of senior year, what will happen to Smithstein’s animal rights club after he graduates? He admitted that he had never thought about it. After a moment, he said he absolutely hopes to “pass the torch” to a willing freshman or sophomore that will hopefully keep his legacy alive.