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Eastside students learn ‘WE’ can take action
There’s something pretty incredible about putting 15,000 students into a room and telling them they have the power to change the world. That’s what We Day is all about. Inspiring youth.
Started by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger, We Day is a party of sorts – consisting of live music, celebrity appearances and lots of opportunities to scream and dance. But it’s also got a mission: to encourage young people to take action through service projects.
On Wednesday, students from across Washington state gathered at Seattle’s Key Arena, where We Day made its debut in the United States.
The Kielburgers’ dedication to service started in 1995, when, at age 12, Craig Kielburger heard a story about a Pakastani boy who was sold in to slavery, and was later killed, for speaking out. Inspired to make changes in how people were being treated around the world, Craig rallied a group of friends to raise money for children facing similar obstacles.
That project evolved in to Free the Children – an international charity and educational program that seeks to empower young people. And from that, the Kielburgers started We Day – a rally that’s taken place throughout Canada for the past six years.
Let it be known that We Day isn’t something you can buy your way in to. Rather, students earn their ticket by committing to positively change the world around them – at both the local and global levels. Examples? Food drives, anti-bullying campaigns, fundraisers to build schools and wells. But that’s just the tip of the ice berg. The entire purpose of We Day is to encourage young people to dream big - and to act on those dreams.
We Day Seattle attendees came from all over the state, representing 400 middle and high schools. But a number of people came from our own backyard – including 24 sixth graders from Eastside Christian School in Bellevue.
Eastside Christian Principal Mark Migliore said the school has always incorporated service learning in to their curriculum, and as such, the We Day agenda seemed like the perfect fit.
“The focus here, at Eastside Christian School, over the past several years, has been on individual service,” Migliore said.
Eastside Christian students earned their ticket to We Day by donating items to both the Angel Tree and “Operation Christmas Child” projects in December. The sixth grade class has also donated 96 hours of their time on various community projects; they plan to give 140 hours of service by the end of the year.
“The whole purpose of We Day is to really get kids thinking about service – to think about how they can make a difference,” Migliore said. “I think that’s a theme that we are continuing to explore with our students.”
The Seattle event, which came to fruition with help from co-organizer (and Seattle Seahawks coach) Pete Carroll, featured appearances by Jennifer Hudson, Martin Sheen, Mia Farrow, Nelly Furtado and Seattle hip-hop act Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Seahawks players Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Russell Okung and John Moffitt also took the stage.
Already brainstorming their next action, Migliore said a group of students plan to participate in the “We Are Silent” campaign on April 18, an annual fundraising and awareness-raising campaign organized by Free the Children. The idea behind the campaign is that participants stand in silent solidarity for 24 hours with child laborers – whose voices are silenced by not having their rights upheld.
“I can say with confidence that We Day accomplished its primary goal,” Migliore said. “Our young people are inspired and charged up to get out there and bring about positive change.”
For more information about We Day, and to find out how to be a part of next year’s event, go HERE.