Gabriella Resnick, 18
HIGH School: de Toledo High School
Going to: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
During the second half of her freshman year at de Toledo High School, Gabriella Resnick spent nearly as much time in doctor’s offices as she did in classrooms. After years of eating everything, most food began to bring on stomach cramps, not sustenance.
Tests came up negative and despite a slew of diets and medications, nothing worked. Then, last November while on vacation in the Bahamas with her family, she fell violently ill and went into a tailspin.
“I remember being in my bed, not wanting to get out of bed, but thinking, I can’t do that again,” she said in a phone interview. “I can’t be that upset again. I need to be putting my energy into something.”
Cooking became her salvation. She found unbridled joy in experimenting with healthy recipes and documenting the journey on her website — The Involuntary Vegan. “I didn’t choose the vegan life, the vegan life chose me,” her bio reads.
“Regardless of whether or not it helped anyone, I needed to put my energy into something I was passionate about and I hoped people would see that passion and come with me on that journey,” she said.
Sure enough, classmates and even teachers came along for the ride. Many complimented her on the honesty in her site’s personal essay titled “My Wellness Journey,” in which Resnick confessed to feelings of isolation caused by her food intolerances. In it, food, being communal and unifying for so many, she reasoned, could also be exclusionary.
“I didn’t choose the vegan life,
the vegan life chose me.”
Classmates and teachers dealing with self-diagnosed food intolerances now regularly reach out to Resnick. She has shared gluten-free lunches with teachers and received many heartfelt thanks from classmates and students’ parents who’ve tried her recipes at home. She’s had countless conversations with classmates to dispel stigmas about healthy food being tasteless. In some cases, she’s made believers out of people who don’t have allergies and simply use her recipes because they enjoy the dishes.
Resnick has even taken the mission outside de Toledo’s walls. For her Senior Capstone Internship, Resnick spent six weeks working for Culinary Kids Academy, a Los Angeles-based company that combines an educational curriculum with experiential cooking classes.
She also maintains a regular column in the school newspaper on healthy eating and serves as a volunteer peer mentor to members of the de Toledo freshman class. The totality of Resnick’s impact on campus — and in the kitchens of classmates and faculty — garnered her a spot as one of her school’s peer-selected graduation speakers.
“That distinction meant the world to me,” she said of the honor. “I value honesty and in my writing, I try to display that.”
In the fall, Resnick will attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo as a nutrition major, and hopes that her wellness journey continues to inspire.
“Hopefully, once I have the education to couple with everything I’m putting out into the world, my work will continue to gain traction, attract attention and spiral into something,” she said. “I’m also passionate about the psychology of eating. Food is just a big part of my life and I think it will always be a big part of my life, regardless of what I do.” n