By Jeannie Russell
HEART’s innovative Compassionate Communities Awards competition is taking root in the great borough of Brooklyn, thanks to an exciting partnership with the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office.
HEART’s Compassionate Communities Awards competition brings a whole-child, comprehensive approach to humane education into our public schools by challenging them to expand and enhance learning experiences and active, compassionate action around the needs of animals and the natural environment. This year’s theme for Compassionate Communities centers on humane education topics and practices within established Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) competencies by highlighting the ways that building reverence for nature and appreciation of the inherent value of all living beings fosters empathy, prosocial behaviors, and ethical decision-making skills.
Borough President Eric Adams is well known here in New York for having adopted a vegan diet because of health issues some years ago. As is so often the case, this transition away from a meat-based diet has been a journey toward greater awareness and activism around the important connections between the large-scale animal agriculture industry and the health of our country’s children and of the planet we all depend upon as one species among the billions that make up our living world. He has become a passionate advocate for expanded animal welfare protections and recently spearheaded the successful introduction of a weekly Meatless Monday for the entire New York City school system. This initiative was a critical component of his push for making healthy, affordable, whole foods available to our public school children, recognizing both the powerful negative effects of factory farming on our natural world and the extreme suffering of the farm animals themselves within this system. His collaboration with HEART to bring our Compassionate Communities Awards program into Brooklyn schools is therefore a natural extension of his holistic approach to supporting healthy and thriving communities for all.
Thanks to this partnership, our Brooklyn program is reaching fifteen elementary schools collectively serving over 9,000 students in school districts 15 and 16. Through the program, students are working to support companion animals in shelter, clean our waterways, go plastic-free, and bring beauty, critical natural space for our urban wildlife, and fresh produce into their neighborhoods with exciting school gardening programs. Please take a moment to read the Borough President’s press release about Compassionate Communities, and stay tuned for reports on the awards ceremony and finalist presentations at Brooklyn Borough Hall in June.