By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
Today is We Day, as students from Kate Andrews High School in Coaldale and Dorothy Dalgliesh Elementary School in Picture Butte are in Calgary in celebration of the day. What is We Day? We Day, the official website states, empowers young people to change the world. It’s a celebration of youth making a difference in their local and global communities. We Day and the initiatives created prior to and afterwards — offers young people the tools and the inspiration to take social action, empower others and transform lives — including their own.
“This year, for Free the Children and Me To We at the school we’re doing ‘Five Pillars, One Purpose.’ The goal is going to be $5,000 — $1,000 for each of the five pillars or five purposes Free the Children supports. This is our fourth year of doing the We Create Change here at Kate Andrews. This year, we’re taking 39 students and three teachers up to We Day in Calgary,” said KAHS teacher and organizer Mike Gibson, last week. According to a poster for the project hanging in the hallway at KAHS — the five pillars are health, alternative income and livelihood, education and clean water and sanitation.
Carmen Nadeau and Keleeja Peters, two KAHS Grade 12 students, had an opportunity to visit Nicaragua over the summer on a mission trip with Me To We. “It was one of the best experiences for me and Keleeja. I would go back in a heartbeat if I could. We got to meet so many wonderful children and we were building a school and they were always around playing games and just having fun,” said Nadeau.
Initially, Nadeau explained, the two students went to We Day and through the experience in Calgary the students were able to go to another presentation and the speakers put the bug in their ear about the trip. They said, “If you want to go, you should sign up, even if you don’t know if you can. Just look into it.”
“We started looking into it more, getting more information and we just thought it was a great idea to get your hands-on experience,” Nadeau added.
Peters said the experience was pretty awesome. “Just being able to see the impact we’re making. Not just fundraising anymore but actually doing what we were fundraising for. Carmen and I actually fundraised our entire trip. It was almost $10,000 once we were done. Once we were there, we were building a Grade 3 classroom and the kids that were there, most of them were already in Grade 2. Seeing that those were the kids that are going to be able to go into that classroom next year was just super cool to be able to see,” said Peters.
Nadeau noted they’re working on a presentation to share their trip experience with the school and they will be presenting at a teacher’s conference in February. The We Day participants were also invited yesterday to the Evening of Inspiration, which Gibson said was indeed a feather in the group’s cap.
“Which is a pre-We Day event and it’s for all the people who have been involved for many years to recognize all their commitments and accomplishments,” Nadeau said, adding both Nadeau and Peters attended We Day last year.
Grade 11 student Jess Shipton has been involved with We Day since she was in Grade 9. “For me, it’s been a really cool experience because I got a chance to go to Haiti over Thanksgiving of last year. For me to see, I guess, a third world perspective was really cool for me. To see we can actually make a difference here in Coaldale. We can go across the world and do that,” Shipton said. Because it’s Free the Children’s 20th Anniversary, Shipton noted, the group has decided to focus on all five pillars, instead of focusing on just one. “Like we usually do every year.”
“Our school has set a goal for $1,000 for each pillar, which gives us a total of $5,000. Instead of putting it all together and giving us a major goal of $5,000, we can really focus on each pillar, as we go along and research it and really understand why this is important in other countries,” added Shipton.
Grade 10 student Hanna Janssens said she started with We Create Change last year in Grade 9, as Shipton made a presentation to the class. “It just kind of caught my eye and I wanted to start helping out. I haven’t been to We Day. I’m really looking forward to learning what it’s all about,” said Janssens.
Jenna Penner, another Grade 10 student said the initiative is a way to get a whole bunch of kids involved in making a difference. School fundraisers include bake sales and concession sales and Gibson said the project needs to include local and global initiatives. “Our local this year is going to be the food bank and Hampers For Hope, where we sponsor families. Last year, we sponsored four families at Christmas time to provide them with, not only financial assistance, but clothes and used toys. This year, we’re probably going to go for sponsoring four to six families. Our local efforts will go to raising money for that,” he said. Grade 9 students had a chance to go to Calgary this year for We Day, which is a first, Gibson said. “And to be able to share it with more teachers and one of our administrators who is going.” Gibson said upwards to 20 are going from Dorothy Dalgliesh Elementary School.