Food Allergy School CANpaign: It takes a Team!
CANpaign: Make it a priority to build a network of food allergy teammates at school.
CANpaign: It takes a team to successfully manage food allergies at school. Start now to help your child recruit the best teammates possible to make food allergy success at school a reality.
When End Allergies Together, which raises money for food allergy research, created its powerful “Give and Go” PSA, they didn’t just grab their cell phones and start filming. They recruited a worldwide agency, BBDO, to help them make it happen. And when they wanted a spokesperson for it, they didn’t choose just anyone. They recruited Jerome Bettis, a role model who appeals to young people and adults alike.
That’s what successful organizations and companies do. They recruit the best talent to develop a message and then surround themselves with influencers who will market that message to those who need to hear it.
The same is true at school.
During your meetings with school officials about the allergy, make it a priority to build a network of advocates who can help your child recruit the best food allergy teammates. Ask the officials specifically to help recruit other adults and children who can stand with your child. Educate the teammates first. Then let them make their magic with others.
When looking for adults in the school, who is the teacher that everyone respects? Get that teacher on board, even if the teacher is not directly associated with your child. Well-respected teachers have incredible clout with students and can set a tone that others will emulate. The students won’t want to let their favorite teachers down.
Is there someone else who can advocate for your child? Sometimes it isn’t the most obvious, especially if another adult or student in the school knows someone with a food allergy too.
Sometimes the most powerful person in the school isn’t necessarily the most effective. They may be too busy to be accessible or too busy to make the change authentic. When change occurs authentically, it will make it less of a burden on your child.
The motivated adults will help your child recruit the top kids to assist, too. And by the top I don’t necessarily mean the most popular. I mean the ones who garner the respect of the others. Find kids across friend groups and grades. They are the influencers in the school. They set the tone. Peer pressure is alive and well in school… use it to your advantage.
When we ask our children to become food allergy advocates, we have to remind them that they don’t have to do it alone. Even if they are the only ones with the allergy, it doesn’t mean they are the only ones who have a vested interested in creating an environment that is safe for all. That’s a life lesson that will serve them well.
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.