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April 13th - May 11th, 2024
Saturdays, 1:30-4:30pm
Held at University United Methodist Church, 324 University Avenue, Syracuse, NY,
Farm Sanctuary, 3150 Aikens Rd., Watkins Glen, NY,
and Briarwood Farm Sanctuary, 318 Center Road, Pennellville, NY

Want to go vegan, but need some help and support? Be a Vegan Pledge in the Syracuse Vegan Living Program! The Vegan Living Program (VLP) is a FREE educational program that covers the how’s and why’s of living vegan, including the ethical and environmental considerations of veganism, nutrition, cooking, meal planning, and living vegan in a not-yet-vegan world. Participants pledge to live vegan for the duration of the program, with the help of volunteer Vegan Coaches and our educational program. Pledges receive a binder full of resources and recipes, a VLP tote bag, and free vegan stuff to make the transition easier and more fun!

It’s clear that more and more of us are interested in addressing animal exploitation, tackling climate change, and concerned about our own health. In fact, according to search engine giant Google, the search interest for “vegan food near me” increased by more than 5,000% in recent years! Whatever your motivation, the Vegan Living Program is designed to provide you with the support you need, and to build a community of like-minded individuals.


The Vegan Living Program has been held with overwhelming success since 2011 in Baltimore, MD, Long Island, NY, Syracuse, NY, Rochester, NY, and Pasadena, CA. We are thrilled to bring the VLP back to Syracuse and Long Island this year!


Join us for this life-changing program!

Registration and Ways to Get Involved

Not yet vegan? Be a Vegan Pledge.

Are you vegan? Be a Vegan Coach. 


Must be vegan for at least one year to be a Vegan Coach. First-time Coaches, please see Orientation info on application form!


Help us promote the VLP, or lend a hand at the program itself. Contact us at


Are you interested in becoming a sponsor or product donor of the Vegan Living Program? Contact Erin at for details!

The 2024 Syracuse VLP Schedule:

The Vegan Living Program sessions are 100% required attendance for Vegan Pledges and Coaches.




April 13, April 20, and April 27 (session 1-3) will be held at the University United Methodist Church (UUMC), 324 University Avenue, Syracuse, NY 13210.

May 4 (session 4) we'll meet at Farm Sanctuary, 3150 Aikens Road, Watkins Glen, NY 14891.

May 11 (session 5) we'll meet at Briarwood Farm Sanctuary. 318 Center Road, Pennellville, NY 13132. 


SESSION ONE - April 13, 1:30-4:30pm: 
Intro to Veganism, Cooking Demos & Coach-Pledge Intros 
Held at the
University United Methodist Church (UUMC), 324 University Avenue, Syracuse, NY 13210

Vegan Coaches & Pledges meet and get acquainted. Intro to Veganism with Syracuse Vegan Living Program Organizers Emily Doucet, Jim Thompson and Shelly Bornemann. Cooking Demo by Clinical Nutritionist Khija Rockett, an herbalist by heart and a nutritionist by degree. Afterward, Coaches and Pledges will have more time to get to know one another.

SESSION TWO - April 20, 1:30-4:30pm: 
Vegan Nutrition & Fitness
Held at the University United Methodist Church (UUMC)
, 324 University Avenue, Syracuse, NY 13210

Vegan Nutrition with board certified oncologist, Dr. Steven Duffy. Where do you get your protein? Is soy bad for you? Learn about healthy, vegan nutrition and get your questions answered. Dr. Duffy will speak about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and provide data pertaining to health and nutrition.


Dr. Duffy will be followed by Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Ben Rayland who will discuss Vegan Fitness and the benefits plant-based foods have on all lifestyles. Afterward, Faith Rayland, a vegan mom of five will present, “Veganism in Practice: Real Life Tips from a Vegan Mom.”

SESSION THREE - April 27, 1:30-4:30pm: 

The Environment & Living Vegan in a Not-Yet-Vegan World
Held at the
University United Methodist Church (UUMC), 324 University Avenue, Syracuse, NY 13210

This session will begin with a presentation titled "Veganism is Environmentalism" by Demosthenes Maratos. Demosthenes is the Communications Director of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy University and was featured in the film Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (streaming on Netflix). He will speak about the environmental impact animal agriculture has on our planet, and discuss the ethical reasons for living vegan. 


In the second half of the session, Demosthenes will join the panel discussion, “Living Vegan in a Not-Yet-Vegan World” moderated by Sam Kenney and Christine Volk from Compassion & Cucumbers: A Vegan Podcast. Guest panelists include Nick Ryan, co-founder and co-owner of Strong Hearts Cafe, Theresa Stowell, co-founder and board member of Vegan CNY, and Jacqueline Cappello, environmentalist and recipient of a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from Cornell’s Center for Nutrition Studies.  

SESSION FOUR - May 4, day trip with tour at 2:00pm:

Field Trip to Farm Sanctuary 

Held at Farm Sanctuary, 3150 Aikens Rd., Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Nestled in the beautiful Finger Lakes Region of upstate New York, the rolling green pastures of Farm Sanctuary’s 271-acre New York shelter are home to more than 500 rescued farm animals. We will meet there for a tour, get acquainted with the resident animals, and learn about their lives before and after rescue.


Carpooling is strongly suggested. Not open to the public, but VLP participants may bring guests with advance RSVP to Emily at and $15/guest (see below). Capacity is limited, so guest RSVPs will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Allow enough time and plan to arrive early, as the tour is scheduled to begin promptly at 2:00pm.

A $15 per person donation is required for guests (not Pledges or Coaches) who RSVP for the sanctuary visit. The donation can be paid to the Vegan Living Program using cash or Paypal. Paypal: or


SESSION FIVE - May 11, 1:30-4:30pm: 
Graduation Celebration
Held at Briarwood Animal Sanctuary, 318 Center Road, Pennellville, NY 13132

A celebratory vegan pot-luck vegan meal for Pledges and Coaches, with certificates of completion presented to Pledges. Eric Lindstrom, Executive Director of Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) and author of “The Skeptical Vegan” and “The Smart Parent’s Guide to Raising Vegan Kids” will be presenting “You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks.” With musical guest, Caleb Liber.


Due to limited space and for the safety of the rescued residents, graduation will be limited to only VLP Pledges, Coaches and Organizers.

Please Note:


Vegan Living Program educational content is not meant to be construed as health advice, or take the place of a consultation with a medical professional. All Vegan Pledges will be given a release form indicating as much at the first meeting on April 13, which MUST be signed in order to participate in the program.​

All educational sessions will be documented with video and/or photography, which will be posted online and/or used in promotional materials for the program. Media may be invited to some sessions. Submitting a registration form for the VLP indicates your acceptance of these terms.


Speaker Bios:

Shelly Bornemann  
Syracuse VLP Organizer
Speaker Session 1

Shelly began attending animal rights events in the mid-2000s. She’s participated in vivisection, circus, factory farming, and anti-fur demos organized by local grassroot organizations. She’s donated time to help local animal sanctuaries with cleaning stalls and other labor. She was the Volunteer Coordinator at the 2019 Syracuse Vegfest. During that time, she also participated in Vegan CNY’s Food Share cooking and serving lunch for anyone needing it.

Currently Shelly is focusing on vegan education and support by co-organizing her fourth Syracuse Vegan Living Program. Her passions include taking endless photos of her fur-kids, Betty, Polly, Xander and Otis, creating vegan dishes to share with friends and family to show how easy and delicious vegan cooking is, nature walks, gardening, and renovating her home with her fiance, Dave. She also works at a local credit union where she’s on the Environmental Advocacy Team and a member of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee. 

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Emily Doucet  
Syracuse VLP Organizer
Speaker Session 1

Emily has been volunteering with homeless cats and dogs at local animal shelters since 2001, and currently volunteers at Second Chance Canine Adoption Shelter in Jamesville, and assists with social media and marketing for Cuse Pit Crew, a pit bull advocacy group in Syracuse. She made the connection between the companion animals she was advocating for and farmed animals in 2012, and has been happily vegan ever since!


Emily was a vegan coach at the 2018 Syracuse Vegan Living Program, and a co-organizer in 2019 and 2023. She is so excited that the VLP is back, and to be a co-organizer again this year!


She currently works at the Fayetteville Library, and as a mentor at Advocates Inc.  She lives with her partner Dan, and their menagerie of 4 rescue cats and 1 special needs rescue dog. When she's not working or volunteering, Emily loves reading, mushroom hunting, hiking, swimming and taste-testing (and posting on Instagram) all the fabulous vegan food created by Dan!

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Jim Thompson  
Syracuse VLP Organizer
Speaker Session 1

Jim currently serves on the board of Vegan CNY, where he has been involved with organizing Syracuse Vegfest, coordinating the weekly Vegan Food Share program, tabling local events, and generally spreading the word on vegan living. He was a vegan coach for the Syracuse VLP back in 2018, and is excited to be co-organizing a VLP for the second time. Jim lives with his wife, two vegan kids, and pit mix Ringo. When he's not volunteering with Vegan CNY, he works for the state as a Vocational Counselor and trains for marathons in an attempt to prove that he's not really 50.

Dr. Steven Duffy  
Speaker Session 1

Dr. Steven Duffy is a hematologist and medical oncologist at Hematology-Oncology Associates of CNY, where he is the Director of Research in addition to his medical practice.  He is board-certified, internal medicine, hematology, and oncology.

Jim 2023.jpg
Khija Rockett  
Speaker/Cooking Demo Session 2

Khija Rockett is an herbalist at heart and a nutritionist by degree. She holds a B.S. in nutrition from Syracuse University. Rockett's exceptional journey began as a trailblazer at SU, launching her very own nutrition column in the esteemed university publication, The Daily Orange.Khija Rockett now serves on the Board of Directors for Cafe Sankofa, a community-driven wellness resource center rooted in her hometown of Syracuse.

Furthermore, she excels in her role as a clinical nutritionist at a skilled nursing facility, where her dedication to the well-being of others shines brightly.

As a certified lifestyles oriented nutrition counselor, Rockett brings a unique approach to her work, utilizing mindfulness techniques to facilitate the transformation of one's relationship with food and their body. Her goal? To guide others in achieving and maintaining their desired weight without resorting to restrictive diets or meticulous calorie counting. Khija Rockett envisions Soul & Health as a stepping stone for some and a lifestyle for others. She believes that by promoting mindfulness and educating individuals about the importance of proper nutrition, she can help them achieve a state of optimal health and well-being that extends beyond just physical health.

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Ben Rayland 
Speaker Session 2

Rampage Strength and Conditioning is owned and operated by Ben Rayland, CSCS, affectionately known in the community as “Coach Ben”.  We specialize in Sports Performance and Fitness & Strength for all ages.

“Coach Ben” Rayland has 20+ years of experience as a coach and trainer.  He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).  Ben is also a Certified Level 1 Coach with USA Track & Field and a Certified Sports Performance Coach with USA Weightlifting.  Ben is a father of five who resides in Fayetteville with his family and is a proud member of the Central New York community.

Coach Ben understands that adapting new fitness habits is difficult, so he thrives on making it fun! His goal is to change your view on fitness, so that it becomes a part of who you are and your lifestyle. He strongly believes that if you practice healthy habits, you will be able to obtain a healthy lifestyle. 

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Faith Rayland 
Speaker Session 2

Faith has been vegan for 20 years, and was vegetarian for 17 years before that. She and her husband Ben are raising 5 vegan children. Faith considers herself a "regular mom" and takes a practical approach to feeding her vegan family.

Faith Rayland Bio Photo.jpg
Demosthenes Maratos  
Speaker Session 3

Demosthenes serves as the Communications Director at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy University. Demosthenes has worked in the field of environmental and public policy since 1989. He began his career with the Long Island Neighborhood Network, the New York region's largest and most active environmental advocacy organization. There, in addition to many successful efforts, he campaigned for the two most significant pieces of pesticide legislation in New York State history - the Neighbor Notification of Pesticide Spraying law and the Safe School Grounds law.

With the Sustainability Institute at Molloy University, Demosthenes is part of a team that provides community education and fosters informed debate on key issues related to sustainability. His work also includes integrating concepts of sustainability, environmental ethics, and veganism into the curriculum, operations and culture at Molloy University and the larger Long Island community. He is featured in the 2014 documentary film, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret that is currently streaming on Netflix.

Sam Kenney and Christine Volk
Panel Moderators Session 3

Sam Kenney and Christine Volk are a married couple of ten years and the hosts of Compassion & Cucumbers: A Vegan Podcast. In 2019 they decided to go vegan after Christine watched the documentary, What the Health. Sam was away on a business trip and returned home to find her wife, Christine, enthusiastically suggesting that they adopt a vegan life. They transitioned almost immediately as Sam began cleaning out their refrigerator, disposing of any animal products she could find.

The couple continued seeking out vegan documentaries, books, websites, and anything else that would give them information on being vegan. They also educated themselves on animal liberation, animal sanctuaries, vegan activism, and ways to promote the vegan message.

It became clear that they wanted to work on encouraging others to become vegan. They educated their families and friends by introducing them to the vegan recipes they had tried, all the while gently informing them about the plight of the farmed animals in an omnivorous world.

To take things a bit further, they decided to start a podcast. They wanted to focus on compassion towards both the non-human animals they advocated for, and their fellow human beings. They wish to bring an accessible, non-judgmental message of veganism to as many people as possible, allowing others to realize the compassionate beings that we truly are while also celebrating our innate humanness.

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Nick Ryan
Speaker Session 3

Nick Ryan is a founder and owner of Strong Hearts. Now operating restaurants in both Syracuse and Buffalo, Strong Hearts started out in Syracuse in 2008.

Nick grew up in Weedsport, NY and  studied Psychology and Music Industry at Syracuse University. While at SU, Nick helped reform and grow the Syracuse Animal Rights Organization. The group was involved in various forms of animal rights activism, from community outreach to organizing protests and hosting conferences.

Nick has lived vegan for more than 23 years.

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Theresa Stowell
Speaker Session 3

Theresa’s love for animals brought her to vegetarianism about 12 years ago. Almost three years later, becoming a parent sparked a transformative shift. When they learned that their first child was intolerant to cow's milk, Theresa embarked on the path of veganism, embracing a lifestyle that wasn't just about personal choice, but a commitment to compassion and the well-being of all living beings (that they now share with their two vegan kiddos).

The path hasn’t always been easy. In addition to navigating other dietary restrictions (thankfully we no longer need to be gluten or soy free!) and relationships with not yet vegan loved ones, Theresa has struggled to reconcile how some with seemingly compatible values view veganism.  Recognizing the power of connection, they have focused their energy and advocacy into organizing and sharing practical guidance. 

This focus has provided the opportunity to become part of a vibrant vegan community, connecting with like-minded individuals and engaging in impactful work. As co-founder and board member of the local 501(c)(3) non-profit Vegan CNY, the organization behind Syracuse Vegfest and Food Share, Theresa possesses a wealth of practical knowledge and resources to share along with unwavering compassion.

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Jacqueline Cappello
Speaker Session 3

Jacqueline Cappello is a passionate environmentalist who was an Energy Auditor and solar industry Project Manager in New York City, before relocating to South Onondaga and eventually homeschooling her son.

In 2018, after learning that animal agriculture was causing global biodiversity loss & species extinction and realizing she could no longer reconcile being an animal lover while simultaneously eating animals who needlessly suffered, Jacqueline –against every German meat- and dairy-loving bone in her body– started stepping away from animal products.

Jacqueline’s husband and son also stepped onto the plant-based, whole-food path in 2019, and the family became collectively and measurably healthier. The best gift of all: their son who had suffered from failure-to-thrive launched right out of that diagnosis and continues to flourish.

Lit up with how important vegan feasting is for sustainability, the lives of others, and the health of ourselves and kin, in 2021 she received her Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate through Cornell’s Center For Nutrition Studies. She now pairs her zeal for environmentalism with her love of food, nutrition, and animals.

Jacqueline and her son offer free coaching, cooking demonstrations, and talks to help folks learn the beneficial ripple effects of eating sustainably, healthfully, and compassionately.

Jacqueline Cappello Bio Photo.jpg
Eric C Lindstrom  
Speaker Session 3

In his role as Executive Director of Farm Animal Rights Movement, Eric manages the 501(c)3's programs, personnel, budget, and operations. After founding a successful vegan advertising and marketing firm, Eric officially started his career in the animal rights movement as the Program Director for Farm Animal Rights Movement (2016-2018) and then served as the Director of Marketing and Communications for Animal Outlook (formerly Compassion Over Killing). He has penned two best-selling books on veganism, The Skeptical Vegan and Raising Vegan Kids (Skyhorse Publishing) and resides in Ithaca, New York.

Caleb Liber  
Musical Guest Session 5

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"I recommend this excellent program to anyone who is interested in learning more about the vegan perspective. The presentations are informative and practical. Myths are dispelled here. Yes, it is possible to get enough protein on a vegan diet, and vegan food can be delicious! More importantly, people who care about the impact they have on their fellow beings, and on the environment, come together to explore the possibilities for change."


~ Pamela Kenley-Meschino

Vegan Living Program participant, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018


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