IHE M.A. graduate student Jenna Bardroff lives in Gainesville, Florida, and works as the executive director of Kids ROCK-Reation and manager of Gainesville Rock Gym. She says that she could be labeled as a lot of things, “…. But I am most proud of identifying with being a solutionary, changemaker, and humane educator. Since early childhood, I have valued my responsibility to protect animals, the environment, and people. Through college and life experiences, I have developed the motivation to benefit the world, and I have been inspired to continue learning for positive change.”
Currently Jenna is directing a children’s solutionary program at her rock climbing gym. Jenna says, “As a rock climbing solutionary, I am literally and figuratively climbing my way to solutions for a more compassionate world.” We asked Jenna to tell us a little about her journey and her work for a better world.
IHE: What led you to the path of humane education?
JB: My direction in life has always been influenced by the core values of a humane educator. Our family’s devotion to rescuing and caring for animals in need, particularly our pot-bellied pig, Arnie, was the beginning of my journey of conscience. I began to understand and make connections between animal consumption and sentient beings. This awareness ultimately led me to advance my research into dilemmas surrounding human, animal, and environmental protection issues. I felt that if suffering was inflicted upon one, suffering would be among all living creatures. And by taking off my blinders, by witnessing the suffering of others, by experiencing true empathy, I was introduced to the path of a humane educator.
JB: I believe that there is a potential solutionary in every individual. I have focused my thesis around motivational factors that promote participation in solutionary action. As an example of how humane education can be applied in any social environment, I initiated and am now directing a children’s program for solutionary rock climbers called “Kids ROCK-Reation: A climbing club for the rising solutionaries.” Weekly sessions are organized for kids ages 6-12. As a group, we focus on building cooperative leadership skills, strength, endurance, social skills, confidence, and positive attitudes, while participating in activities that educate kids about solutions for the environment, animals, and people.
“Super Solutionaries” is one theme chosen to promote not only physical strength applied in the climbing activity, but also for character strength. The youth dressed up in superhero costumes and created a signature “super stance.” Each activity that day required a commitment to team cooperation. I explained to the learners that just like superheroes, it is important to build up our own strength, so that together we can have the power to save the world.
Other examples of solutionary climbing activities have included deciphering between “healthy” and “unhealthy” food by finding images as the kids climb; seeing through a nonhuman animal’s eyes by appreciating various animal movements while climbing the walls; learning the difference between trash and recyclables by sorting out items placed strategically on the wall; and many others.
IHE: Share a success story.
JB: Every day can be a solutionary success story if we choose for it to be. After all, success is only a matter of perception. Recently, I visited Jacksonville, Florida, for their annual VegFest. Carrying around my two rescued Goffin’s cockatoos, many people were inclined to talk to me and wanted to find out what position I held at the event. I simply told people, “I am a humane educator.” This response provoked many questions and opened up a great deal of educational opportunity. On this day, I realized my work is finally paying off. I am learning to truly connect with people to connect others to humane education.
IHE: What are your future plans for your humane education work?
JB: I have many goals, hopes, and dreams for my future as a humane educator. Realistically, I am taking it day by day to discover what solutionary opportunities will arise next. I hope to be inspired by others, and I will continue to participate in community outreach programs. I have also enjoyed attending conferences and meeting speakers whose experiences have raised thought-provoking questions as to how I can contribute to solutions. I hope to meet mentors along the way who can guide me in a direction of purpose.
IHE: What gives you hope for a better world for all?
JB: Empathy is a major aspect of humane education, because in order to think as a solutionary, we need to understand pain and suffering – for the environment, animals, and other people. Becoming a humane educator is not an easy process; at times it can be heart wrenching and depressing. So what gives me hope in a world full of problems? Thinking about solutions, thinking about the steps I can take to make a difference, and actively appreciating positive changes that do occur. For example, people who consume solely plant-based diets are part of a minority population in the United States and throughout the world. However, the population of vegetarians/vegans continues to grow each year. The environment is being destroyed by our human hands, but human hands are also restoring it. We still experience wars, discrimination, and other forms of human-human injustices, but there are many seeking conflict resolution.
Working at a rock climbing gym, I often smile at moments that give me hope for a better world. I will never forget the day I taught a group of men and women who were homeless how to climb and “escape” their life’s obstacles. Or the day a group of people referred to by our society as “disabled” scaled the walls of our rock gym. People are consistently proving the impossible to be quite possible. There is hope for a better world for all.
IHE: What would you say to others interested in IHE’s graduate programs?
JB: Be prepared for an experience you may not have been expecting. Anyone has the potential to be a solutionary, and it is not necessary to be enrolled in a graduate program to be a humane educator. However, involvement in the program will offer you a mix of powerful emotions, confidence in your abilities to spread awareness on each topic learned in the program, and empowerment to be a solutionary in every aspect of your life.