Natalie Parkins, a junior at West Virginia Wesleyan College, is a student leader who has dedicated herself to animal welfare issues through her work in WE LEAD. Natalie has been instrumental in recruiting volunteers for local reduced-cost and free spay and neuter days so that low-income families can become responsible pet owners in a way that won't burden them financially. She has also collected monetary donations and supplies to support the local shelter as well as a shelter affected by the devastating June 2016 West Virginia flooding. Natalie advocates for all animals and has presented on poaching, threatened/endangered species, the effects of human pollution on wildlife and factory farming practices. Currently, Natalie is serving on a community committee to construct a dog park in town this fall which will create opportunities for interactions between community members, will encourage more people to pursue physical activity with their pets, and is not cost-prohibitive for any member of the community. She has an intersectional view of animals and society, emphasizing health issues, sustainability issues, mental health, and ethical issues around animal use and consumption. Animals are among the most vulnerable in any population, and Natalie will always be their champion.
Being from an area where trees and fields are the closest things resembling neighbors, it was pertinent to embrace every volunteer and service opportunity I encountered growing up. This was, and still is, my way of experiencing the different characteristics that make up our world. I have never been the kind of person to casually sit down and observe others doing the work in the community around me. Getting involved with communities and the people within them has become a passion of mine so much so that it has become a part of my daily life as a college student. Whether it is by representing to young children in a daycare that they can have a bright and successful future or it be by working with the local city council to break ground on a dog park, I have learned the valuable lesson that it is my responsibility to not only do what I can for those around me, but to help involve those around me to make a better future for themselves and their communities around them. If I can engage in service with those around me, I know the impact will be beneficial to all of our futures.