I Am JJ: Surrounded by kids who live in CAN!


The past month has been an awesome journey, as I’ve had the incredible opportunity to talk to a lot of young people about my book, Land of Not, and the message of CAN.

When encouraged, young people live in The Land of Can. They quickly tell you what they can do. And they marvel at all the things they will be able to do in their lives. It is our job to encourage that mindset. We must foster it. We must help them soar!

Last week, I visited the Lancaster Recreation Commission the day before Thanksgiving to talk to young people about the importance of having a CAN mindset. With the help of my sister, Ava, and her friend, Lauren, I spoke to three groups of children from Kindergarten through fifth grade, about 110 in all. The day was extraordinary, as we talked about their individual strengths and the importance of embracing those strengths to accomplish great things. The energetic presentation had us playing the keyboard, singing and having fun. (And, yes, I was wearing my Red Sneakers for Oakley!)

I believe wholeheartedly in empowering young people to embrace their CAN. I also believe in the importance of raising awareness about food allergies.

If we are truly going to raise awareness about food allergies — if we are truly going to stop food allergy bullying — we must do it in a way that includes all kids in the discussion. My “I AM I CAN” presentations are effective because food allergy awareness is only one portion of the talk, not the entire talk. The book and presentations empower ALL young people to be who they are and who they can be, not who they’re not.

Every time I finish talking with young people about The Land of Can, I am overwhelmed with the most incredible feeling of hope, for it is well known that kids who identify by their strengths at younger ages will have a greater chance of success throughout their lives.


 JJ Vulopas is a senior at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. An advocate for young people, JJ has lived with food allergies his entire life. He is the author of the children's book, Land of Not. You can read his daily blog at www.thelandofcan.com and follow him @thelandofcan on Twitter and Instagram.