Most kids are taught that the reward for volunteering is the knowledge and pride in doing a good thing. Sometimes, though, there is a reward for doing those good things. On Wednesday, March 27, 15,000 students from across Washington descended on Key Arena for such a reward. The first ever We Day in the United States was held on Wednesday, featuring acts such as Jennifer Hudson, Nelly Furtado, Martin Sheen, Martin Luther King III and a surprise performance by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
We Day, which has been held throughout Canada for years, is a celebration of the powerful things that young adults are doing. Students earned their way to the event through service in one local and one global service project. Mercer Island was represented by 29 students at Islander Middle School.
Tara Stone, interim principal at IMS, said she heard about the event through a friend. She said the school didn’t know how many tickets they would be able to get, but opened the application process to all students. The main criteria was involvement in a service project of some kind, either in the past or presently working on.
“We looked at what the students said and narrowed it down,” she said. The 29 students were chosen from the hundreds who applied. “There was quite a range of projects,” said Stone. “One of the main ones was the food drive we do in the fall. The kids really look forward to that, and it helps local families.”
Other projects included Hearts for the Homeless, which happens around Valentine’s Day, where students make cards for homeless in the area. Projects with the Girl Scouts, and those recognized by the National Charity League, were also popular, as well as church organizations.
“We’re lucky to have so many who volunteer,” said Stone. “We thought this would be a great way to instill some more energy into it, like a motivator.”
Schools who are invited to participate are encouraged to participate in at least one local charity and a global one.
“The global part is the one we’re still thinking on,” said Stone. “We’re thinking about how to expand.”
The event itself was like going to a star-studded music festival, but just for kids.
Here is what some of the students who attended the event said afterward:
“We Day was a super inspiring experience. I had a great time and realized that kids can make a difference. It was really cool to hear some people’s stories of doing the ‘impossible.’ All of the speakers really connected with the audience. It was fun to see everyone’s YouthSpark bracelets glowing in the dark like the spark in us. I am so glad I got to go, and I hope everyone will take what they learned and use it for the better,” said seventh-grader Caroline Lambright.
“I had an amazing time at We Day. I would really like to thank the teachers who gave us this incredible opportunity. I feel inspired to take action in our community and around the world. At first I didn’t know what I could do and if I could do something to help out. But now I feel motivated and eager to be the change and take action,” said Louise Morton, a seventh-grader.
“I thought that I had made at least somewhat of a difference before We Day, but now I think that I’m nowhere near what I could be doing,” wrote seventh-grader Kari Anderson. “Some of the kids out there have been doing these kind of things while giving up a lot. Time, money, and things are all spent, but when you think about it, it’s worth it. First world problems aren’t real problems, and, if we work hard, we can make that true for Third World problems. Maybe we will, someday. I know that I can do much, much more than what I’ve been doing. And I think that if I can, the rest of the world can. Together, we can change the world.”
“I think We Day was very inspirational for young kids like us. It taught us that we can make a difference as kids locally and globally, regardless of the issue. I think the speakers were very inspiring and so were the founders themselves ... The youthspark bands were pretty cool just like a lot of things at this event. This is something I remember for the rest of my life,” said Patrick Hanson, seventh grade.
“Today was so inspirational for me to see all of their stories and how they overcame. It showed me that I can get over any hump or setback that is thrown at me,” wrote sixth-grader Stirling Yeason.
“We Day was a real life changer. I learned that the world will change, but it starts with us. I’m already reading ‘Free The Children,’ it is really good,” said sixth-grader Nia Tate. “I also connected to the speakers, I hope I can learn more from this. In the future I’m planning on helping as much as I can with ‘We Will Not Rest’ in helping the homeless.”
“I think that We Day was really inspirational, and I loved listening to all of the speakers talk. I liked how they really included the audience, and how they taught us the dance. Today was so fun, and I would absolutely love to do it again!” said Cara Starnes, sixth-grade.
“We Day was an amazing day, and it was nice to be there with a mix of kids that we don’t normally see on a daily basis and still have fun. The energy in the arena was amazing, and it felt like we were all mentally together,” wrote eighth-grader Kristin Jradi. “The speakers were so passionate about how we can change the world; it was very inspirational. At times we have all asked how we could make a difference since we are only one person, and yesterday taught us that we can. I also loved hearing the stories of what our community has done to make a difference. The amazing performances and the powerful speakers really empowered me to talk about We Day and learn about some of the other campaigns that Free The Children is involved with. I will definitely be participating in the ‘we are silent day,’ teaching the ‘we day’ dance, and spreading the word. I am so thankful for being able to attend this event.”
“We Day made me think that people have the desire for change, and the hope that the world can be a better place. We Day is the call that brings a generation together. Most of all, We Day is more than just one day of celebration and inspiration, it is every day. Free The Children’s We Day is youth leading and spreading local and global change. One step at a time, we will change the world,” said sixth-grader Faith Osei-Tutu.
“I had the best time at We Day — it was incredibly inspirational and exciting and fun all at the same time. I feel so motivated to start helping out even more,” said seventh-grader Sophie Feldman.
“I heard the wonder and inspiration in Magic Johnson’s voice. He explained to us that anything is possible, we can do things for our community that is so little yet goes so far and that we are the next great generation,” said sixth-grader Bridget Aylen. “This was literally a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I participated in. This absolutely changed the way I think now. This experience was amazing, so amazing I cannot even explain. We Day, we inspire the change.”