Mindful Parking Jobs

Last week during my recent trip to our home office in Arlington, David and I were parking his car prior to heading in to the office one morning. As we were pulling in to the parking garage we observed the most absurd thing. Please see photo below to see what I am talking about.


Can you notice anything absurd in this photo?

Right, you got it. A behemoth of a vehicle (model name left anonymous) was parked in not just one, but TWO parking spaces. Not only that, but the space was in close proximity to the elevator and doors to the building.

Now, I hear a lot of debate all the time about people’s opinions regarding these cars. We do know they use a lot of gas, and are very expensive. Whatever your opinion, I think we can all agree that such a parking job is neither nice nor curteous to others who may need a parking spot close to the building entrance.

I wouldn’t normally write a post like this here, but this was the second instance during my trip to DC where we noticed that people were really parking in places that were not so courteous to others. So I guess what I am asking with this post, is that everyone be a little more mindful of their parking jobs and how taking up two spaces might really inconvenience someone else.  If people are going to choose to bring one of these cars into a space where the parking spaces are small,  maybe they could  park  somewhere a little removed, or out of the center of things, so that others, who might need a closer space more, can utilize both spaces, instead of just the one.


From participant to planner…Who ‘da thunk?

Currently our whole youth leadership team is in the thick of planning a huge retreat for 50+ Youth Leaders and Roots & Shoots staff members. This retreat is our annual Roots & Shoots Youth Leadership Training & Orientation retreat. This is an event where members from our four regional Youth Leadership Councils and College Leadership Council come together for leadership training workshops and to set their outreach goals for the coming year. This year we are having the retreat at Camp Highroad in Middleburg, VA. David and I made a site visit last week, and found the grounds to be very pleasant and perfect for our needs. We should have a lot of fun nestled in the woods.


So far David and I have spent most of the last few months planning the program for this retreat. This process has been particularly exciting for me, because it reminds me of all of the youth retreats and conferences that I attended throughout high school and college. Many of these experiences shaped the person I have become to day, giving me the confidence and the know how to be an affective leader in my community.

Thinking way WAY back I recall my first experience with a youth leadership event, that being a Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership conference. During the summer of ’99, nearly 8 years ago, I attended the conference in Findlay, Ohio at the University of Findlay. There, for an entire weekend we met with other like-minded youth and learned about what it took to be a great leader in our community. I think I can truly say that this experience was what interested me in youth leadership and really showed me how I can make a difference in my community.


As we have been working on the program for this retreat, I have been keeping that experience in my mind, and really hoping that we are putting something together that will be a similarly inspiring experience for the rest of the youth leaders involved. Through all of this planning, I guess I never even considered that someday I might be on that side of things, rather than on the participant side of things.

So far on the schedule we are going to have several guest speakers from the Jane Goodall Institutes Africa Programs and Public Policy programs. We will spend an afternoon working on general leadership skills such as effective communication, team-building, and coaching. Then more specifically we will be working in small groups to learn about how the youth leaders can best be involved in all that Roots & Shoots has going on. That being starting and supporting groups, navigating the website, and presenting Roots & Shoots to the public through presentations and writing. I think its going to be a good weekend and we should get a great deal accomplish. My hope is to send everyone home energized and ready to approach the coming year with confidence and passion.

-Shawn Sweeney, Graduate Fellow, Roots & Shoots, the Jane Goodall Institute


Championship Food for Championship Football

It is my favorite time of the year, playoff time!

This Sunday Philip Rivers (who is a punk) and the San Diego Chargers (who are going to lose) face off against Tom Brady (who is the man) and my beloved New England Patriots (who are going to win their 18th straight game) in the AFC Championship. Following that slaughtering, Bret Farve and the Green Bay Packers face off against, Eli Manning (whose brother is a choker, I know you have not heard that one in a while have ya?) and the New York Gaints in the NFC Championship.

Does it get much better then this? Two low seeds who are heavy underdogs going up against two quarterbacks who are beloved by everyone who does not root for their rivals and who are having the seasons of their lives. Only two teams will survive to play a few weeks from now for the coveted Lambardi Trophy, a pile of rings and a year of gloating rights (unless you lose in the divisional round against a team you should have crushed and thus proving you are in fact a choker and last year was a fluke… *cough* Manningandthecolts *cough*)

The point is, that for anyone who knows what the term “false start” means or who can name more than the top three players on their favorite team has to be excited (unless your Payton Manning or Tony Romo).

With such excitement in the air, with so much at stake and with several hours of pre-game before seven hours of the best football there is, there is only one thing to do, throw a party. Or if you just so happen to be one of the few lucky thousand who will be in Foxboro or at Lambeau Field, a tailgate party.

If you are at Lambeau Field or will be rooting for the Green Bay Packers, what better way to support your team than by packing some green food. Not moldy food, but food that is good for the environment.

I know I am already planning the feast I will lay out as the talking head try to predict the games and I am going all vegetarian and even local grown (well mostly local grown). And before you say that veggies and football do not mix, I just want to point out that the great Joe Namath is a vegetarian (you know, “we did it, we did it”). Even Ricky “the orc” Williams is a vegetarian (okay, bad example).

Either way, consider the menu below when you are heading out to buy your celebration/comfort food (I would suggest vegan, but I do not think the Cheese Heads would approve). I am sure my mom the cater could come up with better names (and better food for that matter) but I opted for the simpleton version.


(served while the talking heads talk)

Bruschetta and Mozzarella on toasted French bread slices

Spicy Bean Salsa served with tortilla chips


(Patriots vs San Diego)

Sweet Potato Burritos


End of the Third Quarter

(Patriots vs San Diego)

Cheese Filled Triangles

Hummus served with baked pita bread


Note: This is where you will pop the bubbly to celebrate the Patriots crushing San Diego


End of the First Quarter

(Packers vs New York)

Pizza (small)

Spinach Dip served with crackers



(Packers vs New York)

Vegetarian Chili


End of NFC Championships

(While the talking heads lament over their poor foresight)

Pumpkin pie


Be sure to check back before the Superbowl for a new menu 🙂


David Chase, Youth Leadership Fellow, the Jane Goodall Institutes’s Roots & Shoots Program


Youth Voice being heard in 2008 Primaries

Who ever said that youth are lazy and apathetic? We aren’t! Right? RIGHT!

So far in this New Year that has been made quite clear by the number of youth participating in the recent presidential primaries. In the much anticipated January 3 Iowa caucuses, voters ages 17 – 29 tripled their participation in the Democratic caucus from 2004 making up 22% of the vote. Also in this caucus the youth vote seems to have been what won the primary for candidates Senator Obama and Governor Huckabee. On the Democratic side 57 % of that youth vote went towards Obama, and on the Republican side 40% of the youth vote went towards Huckabee. As I have been reading news articles about these primaries, I read that the trend is toward courting the youth so that you can win the primary. That seems to be very true.

The power of the youth vote was reinforced again in the subsequent New Hampshire primaries on January 08. Again the in the Democratic caucus the percentage of voters 17 – 29 increased from 14% in 2004, to 18% this year in 2008. This time around in the Democratic caucus the vote from this age group was split between Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. Those voters ages 18 – 24 supported Obama (61%) over Clinton (22%) and voters ages 25 – 29 supported both candidates pretty much equally (Clinton, 37%, and Obama 34%). In the Republican caucus voters ages 17 – 29 supported Senator McCain (17 – 24 year olds, 27% and 25 – 29 year olds, 37%).

So far young voters have really come through for us on these primaries. We are seeing a great race. With these results as our example, clearly we as youth, have the power to select who we think will run our country well, and as our right, we should continue to exercise it.

For myself I have struggled figuring out who I will vote for. As an independent I really try to weigh my decision on the issues. Fortunately this time around I have YouTube so that we can watch all of the debates carefully and learn exactly what each of the candidates supports. All you have to do a Google search or a YouTube search for the name of the candidate and the issue you are interested in. Nine times out of ten you will get something from YouTube or another site. This is fantastic if you can’t tear yourself away from your favorite episode of Family Guy or Scrubs. Thank you digital age. 🙂

Today, January 15 we will watch in great anticipation to see what happens with the primaries in Michigan. Following Michigan in January we have Nevada on January 19, South Carolina on January 26, and Florida on January 29th.

Get all the info and data you need about these primaries (this is where I got the stats you have read above):


Rock the Vote:


Know Your Voting Rights:


Vote Gopher:


– Shawn Sweeney, Graduate Fellow, Roots & Shoots a program of the Jane Goodall Institute

A New Look

As you can see, we have redesigned the blog. We welcome any feedback and hope you like it.

With this new look comes a new vested interest in the blog. Look to see more posts on a wider range of topics with more depth. Check back often and do not forget to subscribe.

A True Dog Day Afternoon

Ten minutes ago, I had a conversation that I have feared having for the past several months. In fact, I have feared having that conversation since I took this fellowship with the Jane Goodall Institute. Once I knew I was going to spend a year in Washington DC before moving on to college in Maryland I knew that I would one day have to have a conversation with one of my parents in which they would inform me that my dog was no longer with us.

The love of my life

Her name was Gracie.

And I loved her.

It is not easy to write about the death of your best friend of 10 years but I want to take the opportunity to make a point. We have all seen the headlines of the Falcon’s ex-quarterback Micheal Vick and the horrendous things he put dogs through. And there are few people who do not feel a little queasy about it

And how could they not? Anyone who has had a dog knows how special the bond is with that animal. How much they love and cared for that animal. How much they trusted the creature that they would, in all honesty, call their best friend.

We love our pets.

I want to pose a question though, if we love dogs and we love cats and birds and hamsters and hedgehogs and horses, why don’t we love cows, pigs and chickens. What makes them different? Because they taste good on the grill?

For a long time I laughed at vegetarians, claiming I love burgers and sausages to much. But last year I found out that the meat industry was the leading cause of global warming, so I stopped eating meat. However, I still did not really understand the people who did not eat meat because they felt for the cows, I mean it is a cow, right?

It took the lost of the one animal that I loved more then most humans for me to really understand that.

I am not asking you to not eat meat. Just think about. And think about that one animal that you love.

Rest in peace, Gracie. I am sorry I was not there but I love you more then you know.