Awakin Calls » Thomas Ponce
Thomas Ponce: Child Activist, Animal Rights Advocate
Thomas Ponce is a 14-year-old animal rights advocate and a citizen lobbyist from Casselberry, Florida. Thomas is the founder of Lobby For Animals, the Coordinator for Fin Free FL, and founder of Harley’s Home, which is used as his school-based animal rights club. Thomas became a vegetarian at the age of 4 and began writing about animal rights at the age of 5. Soon after, Thomas’s parents realized that his advocacy for animals was not a phase, but a way of life. His thoughts on animal rights not only strengthened, but he garnered support from other activists and eventually his own family, who are now Vegans thanks to Thomas’s influence. Thomas believes that speaking out against cruelty on behalf of all living beings, including the environment, See full.
Thomas Ponce is a 14-year-old animal rights advocate and a citizen lobbyist from Casselberry, Florida. Thomas is the founder of Lobby For Animals, the Coordinator for Fin Free FL, and founder of Harley’s Home, which is used as his school-based animal rights club.
Thomas became a vegetarian at the age of 4 and began writing about animal rights at the age of 5. Soon after, Thomas’s parents realized that his advocacy for animals was not a phase, but a way of life. His thoughts on animal rights not only strengthened, but he garnered support from other activists and eventually his own family, who are now Vegans thanks to Thomas’s influence.
Thomas believes that speaking out against cruelty on behalf of all living beings, including the environment, is not only a pivotal part of progress; it is our responsibility. Thomas created Lobby For Animals as a way to teach people about the importance of lobbying for animal rights and to offer tools necessary for success in the political arena. The Lobby For Animals website has training videos that give step-by-step instructions and tips on how to be an effective lobbyist, contact information of government representatives, templates of sample letters, a bi-weekly legislative report and more, including a video that Thomas himself made entitled Tips for Successful Lobbying. “I feel that it is our responsibility as both citizens and human beings to use our minds, hearts and voices to speak up against the injustices we see in the world,” explains Thomas.
His work has also been featured by The Thinking Vegan, Go Inspire Go, Fins and Fluke Radio and a number of local newspapers. Thomas has received awards from The Pollination Project, his City Commissioner's Office, the Farm Animal Rights Movement, and Barry University of Law, and he recently received The President’s Volunteer Service Award, The Jefferson Award and The Prudential Spirit of the Community Award for the second year for his community service work through Lobby For Animals. Thomas was also a contributing author in the book Animal Hero Kids Voices for the Voiceless by Susan Hargreaves.
As Thomas says, “We have to remember, we are speaking up for those who can’t speak up for themselves; we are the voice of the voiceless and we need to be heard!”
Five Questions for Thomas
What Makes You Come Alive?
What makes me come alive is knowing that what I am doing is fulfilling my purpose on this earth. In my opinion I feel that we are all put on this earth to do something. When I see that I have reached someone with my efforts or that I have made someone think about their actions regarding this earth and its inhabitants it makes me feel great and pushes me to keep going. It makes me feel alive and lets me feel like I am fulfilling my purpose in this life, I feel a euphoria that I just can’t put into words. Seeing in someone’s eyes that they get it is so inspirational to me. It’s a recognition that wasn’t there before and if I can feel like I had a small part in that then I know I did my job, and that makes me come alive.
The other thing that truly inspires me and keeps me motivated is when I read about the work that others are doing . Every time I read over grant applications and see all the people out there who are trying to improve the lives of all, it moves me and inspires me. Each time I learn something new from one of these grantees it is like a fire has been lit in me and pushes me to learn more and in turn helps me to grow and be able to then teach more.
I guess it all comes down to this, people and their positive actions and reactions make me come alive; a feeling of accomplishment and pride in my work makes me come alive. Now, I wish I could say it is just the positive aspects of people and their actions that keep me going but to be honest it is also the negative aspects of our society that drives me as well. When I see injustice in any form I tend to rise to act on it and try to find ways to tackle the problem. It is definitely a motivator for me to remain vigilant. Would I rather jut be moved by the positive? Of course, but I think you have to try to make the negative into the positive, so if I can take a less than desirable action by another and turn it into a learning or teaching experience than that to me makes me come alive too.
Pivotal turning point in your life?
Honestly there have been a few of events in my life that I would consider to be pivotal moments. One of the most important ones would have to be when I became vegetarian when I was 4 and then vegan when I was 9. If I had never made that connection between where our food comes from I would have most likely never became the person I am today. Another moment that I feel impacted me was when I saved a baby Bonnet-head Shark. After a long heated discussion on a pier in Venice FL, I convinced a fisherman to allow me to release her back into the ocean. Holding that shark in my hands and looking into her eyes was an indescribable feeling. In a matter of moments a connection had been made that I knew would never be broken. I knew I would work to protect sharks forever.
Another pivotal moment would have to be when I went to FARM’s national animal rights conference and met a lawyer named Jessica who told me about lobbying. It was like a lightbulb went off in my head and I knew this was a crucial component that was missing in mine and others advocacy. I knew I wanted to share what I had learned so I created Lobby For Animals. What happened from that one meeting was definitely a turning point for me. I applied for a grant with The Pollination Project and was awarded their 100th grantee. Receiving the grant from them was such an amazing feeling, knowing that this group of people believed enough in me and my work to want to help me and fund my project. Because of The Pollination Project, I was able to meet so many people, one of which was Mr. Gary Smith, The Thinking Vegan. After he interviewed me things changed. This was the first real interview I had ever done. It was the first time anyone gave me a platform to express myself, other than the opportunities I created on my own at protests and such. He didn’t treat me like a kid or limit my answers.
When his interview was published, it opened up a whole new world to me, it introduced me to a community filled with people who were just like me, who would not think I was weird because of my ethical stance on many issues. This really gave me the chance to spread my message. People were listening and interested and liked what I had to say. All of a sudden I was surrounded by so much kindness and support from a community that up until that moment I didn’t know existed. It was definitely life changing for me. Not only did the interview introduce me to a wonderful community but it gave me a friend for life in Mr. Smith. I will eternally be grateful for the chance he gave me to express myself and for the friendship we now and always will share. He is one of my most treasured friends.
An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
This is a tricky one for me. I know it sounds weird but I have a different view on acts of kindness probably than everyone else in the world, or at least that’s how it feels sometimes. I have seen kindness shown in many different ways by many different people. I have watched videos of people saving animals like the fireman who pulled the kitten out of the burning building and then continued to do CPR on her until he revived her to the police man who gave boots to the homeless man on the street. I think there are a lot of good people out there in the world that do kind things every day that just don’t get reported. My take on these things though is that as much as I am moved by them when I hear about them I cannot help but to feel for a moment that while these acts are kind in nature they are acts that as kind inhabitants of this planet we should all be doing just because they are the right thing to do. Should that fireman have stopped and rescued that kitten, of course he should have, did he have to? No, but as a fellow being on this planet and as a kind individual who values life regardless of the species it was the only choice in my mind. Should the police officer have given boots to the homeless man? Yes he should, if he had it to give and another being needed it why wouldn’t he?
I long for the day when it will not be necessary for people to be rewarded or acknowledged for their random acts of kindness because it will just be a way of life for all beings. There was this gorilla I saw on TV who saved a little boy who fell into the enclosure at the zoo. The gorilla scooped him up before the other gorillas could attack him. Was this an act of kindness? I guess you could look at it as such or was it just what the gorilla knew was the right thing to do, protect that innocent child from harm? To me that gorilla wasn’t thinking “this would be kind of me to do”, she just reacted on her instincts to protect and to do what was right. For me it’s the same thing with random acts of kindness. We all know what is needed to help others we just need to act on it and do it because it’s the right thing to do. Helping others is good for your soul. Having said all that I have to add that because we are not at a point yet where doing kind acts is a part of everyday life I do think it is important that we highlight such stories and continue to promote and inspire others to act with kindness so that it has a ripple effect across this world.
If you are looking for more of a specific incident that I myself have been a part of, the one that comes to mind is I was recently at the mall with my Mom and I have to tell you I am afraid of heights and falling from them, so escalators, high stairs, elevators are not my favorite things . While at the mall as I was reluctantly approaching the down escalator and the room was starting to spin a little, my Mom was reassuring me, or so she thinks that it will be fine and that I should try and how she will be right by my side. With that people are walking by, most paying no mind, while others I’m sure were staring at my ghost white expression as I was frozen about 5 feet away from the start of the escalator. All of a sudden this really big police officer came by and asked if I was going down and I told him “eventually”. He laughed and told me he hates them too and we talked a little about my fear. He then offered to stay with me and ride down with me. He talked to me the whole way down. When we reached the bottom he looked at me and said “good job”. Then he shook my hand and left. I really felt it was such a kind thing to do. In the middle of a busy mall, with a ton of people to watch, he noticed me struggling with something and stopped and took the time to offer his help to me. So many people go through life without really seeing others, their struggles, and their happiness whatever the case may be, so to me to actually take notice, not judge and offer to help was kindness at its best.
One Thing On Your Bucket List?
I know it sounds cheesy and like a beauty pageant one liner, like “I want world peace” but one thing on my bucket list is that I want to make sure that when I leave this earth, it is a better place for my children and grandchildren.
The answer above is my first response to the question but after talking with my Dad he explained that that is not really what a “bucket list” type item is so, a more specific list type item would be I would love to go whale watching one day.
One-line Message for the World?
Never let other people’s negativity or fear destroy or change the person that you are in your heart. Hold true to yourself and just be the best you, you can be.
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