Out of the 18,000 youths who gathered at the Saddledome on Wednesday, October 24, leave it up to the David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS) Leadership class to make the front cover of the Calgary Herald the following day.
The special occasion was Alberta’s first We Day, a large-scale educational event for nine to 20 years olds interested in creating positive change with a star-studded lineup of motivational speakers and performances that left the DTSS class inspired and filled with awe.
“We’re all star struck,” said DTSS Leadership class student Samantha Tyrell.
The We Day movement was started by Ontario-born brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger. The movement is an initiative of Free the Children, the international charity founded by 12-year-old Craig in 1995 in response to a news story he read about a young Pakistani boy Iqbal Mashi, also 12 at the time, who was murdered for speaking out against child labour. We Day events have so far been staged in eight city centres across Canada.
Not only were the Kielburgers on hand to address the packed stadium for Calgary We Day, so were other notable celebrities such as CNN talk show host Larry King and actor Martin Sheen, with Canadian rock stars Hedley, Lights and Marianas Trench offering up performances that had the students dancing in their seats. Other speakers included Torontian Spencer West, the motivational speaker missing the lower half of his body who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, 18-year-old blind motivational speaker Molly Burke with her seeing-eye dog Gypsy, and Grade 7 student Sydney Brouillard-Coyle who is passionate about changing the world and becoming the prime minister of Canada in 40 years.
Larry King — who shared his experiences interviewing some of history’s greats, including Ghandi — was “awesome,” agreed the DTSS class.
“He had a lot of wisdom,” said Stephen Bagan. “It was cool seeing him because I saw him write on Twitter after that he met Molly (and) that she inspired him so much.”
Kids are usually led to believe they can’t do anything until they’re adults, said Miranda Raven.
“It was really inspiring because the way they spoke was like we’re the future and the present,” she said. “They really empowered the fact that we can actually accomplish a lot at our age already.”
“I think that definitely it changed a lot of people’s perspectives on the way the world is actually,” agreed Grace Webber, who was shocked to learn that many children are dying from lack of zinc. “A lot of children are sheltered I think, so actually getting to see what we could be helping and what’s actually going on… I think it definitely changed us.”
“We already changed, in Leadership, that we are going to plan the events together,” said Jelena Enrich. “In the beginning we all worked on our own projects and now we are doing the projects more together so everybody’s engaged and we’re working together.”
The class is debating holding their own We Day at DTSS to help spread the message that children and youth have what it takes to make the world a better place.
“The experience was priceless,” said one student.
The 2012-2013 DTSS Leadership class has already organized several events this school year that have raised funds and awareness for local and global issues, and have many more in the works. A Hunger Banquet and a local dinner and movie night at DTSS on October 16 for World Food Day were fundraisers for the Food Bank and the Invermere Community Greenhouse respectively.