Palmetto High School rising senior Sofia Mesa has become a vegan for ethical reasons. The more she learned about the meat industry, the more she wanted to stop eating meat. She became vegan the summer after her freshman years of high school.
“I watched a few documentaries on Netflix,” she says. “I started doing my own research.”
She says she discovered how easy the transition could be and that going vegan has health benefits.
She’s started an Instagram account featuring easy vegan meals. She talked to her friend Samantha Ouertani often about the issues surrounding the slaughter of farm animals to bring food to the table.
“We always send each other links about articles,” she says. “We always send those links back and forth. We want to get more involved. We wanted to do something to get other people involved and have people ask questions, too.”
They decided to create a community service project called Supplies for a Second Chance.
“We collect supplies and donate them to animal shelters in Florida,” she says.
They began the collection in March, setting up bins a school and in a health food store on Bird Road and 65 Avenue.
Palmetto students responded to the collection request. Mesa says the supplies were requested by the animal sanctuary, Rooterville, located in Melrose, FL, which is near Gainesville. The most popular item donated was bleach.
“We’re looking to partner with more sanctuaries,” Mesa says.
Rooterville was chosen because of their level of interest. They were also the smallest sanctuary of those contacted.
The two will begin collecting supplies for the farm animals again when school begins. The plan is to collect from the start of school through the holidays and donate those supplies to either Rooterville or another sanctuary.
They have also created an animal rights club and plan to reach out to other interested students.
“We’ve organized the club meetings by month,” Mesa says. “Each month we have a theme. One month we are going to talk about animals and cosmetics and the fashion industry. We’ll do that around Fashion week.”
Another month they will highlight the plight of animals in the entertainment industry.
“We also want to talk about zoos that provided sanctuary for the animals,” she says, adding that the discussions will include both sides of the issues.
“I try to find information from multiple sites,” she says.
Mesa’s community service includes her work with Glory House in Miami, which helps girls who are rescued from human trafficking.
“I’m on the junior board,” she says. “I mainly help with fundraising. We have an annual event at the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami.”
Mesa says the first time she heard a story about human trafficking, she was at church and they showed a video.
“The whole auditorium was silent,” she says. “It was chilling. One of the girls, Melissa, I’ve babysat her daughter.”
When Mesa goes to college, she intends to major in English. She is a member of the English Honor Society at Palmetto and vice president of the Creative Writing Club.
She writes poetry and had her first piece published in the literary magazine this past school year.
Mesa is vice president of the Italian Honor Society.
She’s interested in attending Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Eckerd, and New College of Florida.
This summer, Mesa’s interning in her dad’s office for school credit. He’s vice president of construction. She’s been vising job sites with him – they are working on affordable housing and senior housing.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld