HALIFAX: Last week, many local students joined others from around the world to celebrate young people who make a difference.
Nearly 400 students in Grades 6 through 12 from throughout the Strait regional school board (SRSB) travelled to the Scotia Bank Centre in Halifax to take part in WE Day Atlantic 2017.
“The positive energy and the speakers, that’s what stood out for me,” said Annie Maltby, a Grade 7 student from Tamarac Education Centre (TEC) who attended the event on November 30.
“It was so nice to hear from the people speaking that even though we’re younger, we can still make a difference.”
WE Day is a movement aimed at empowering youth to create positive change, both in their communities and as global citizens. Each year, young people gather at WE Day events around the world.
Sean and Crystal Murray of Advocate Printing & Publishing are co-chairs for WE Day Atlantic. Craig Kielburger, who founded WE Day over 20 years ago with his brother Marc, sat down for a video chat with all newspapers in the company, including The Reporter, to talk about the project and answer questions from editors and company officials. Kielburger said celebrities and others attend WE Day because they are inspired by the examples of students, who often go above and beyond to help their communities.
This year’s WE Day Atlantic event had a wide range of guests, including human rights activists, poets, and motivational speakers, as well as performers such as Brett Kissel and television personality Tyrone Edwards. Students earn the chance to attend by taking part in initiatives that support positive change.
Maltby and her classmates have worked on multiple fundraising events including the WE Scare Hunger Campaign to raise support for local food banks.
“Last year, we also raised money to buy a wheelchair for the local hospital,” said Maltby.
Benn West, in Grade 8, is also one of 24 students on the WE Day team at TEC this year. He has been involved in the We Scare Hunger Campaign, as well as other projects to help eliminate hunger in his community.
“In my previous school, I worked with a community garden to provide fresh food for our food bank, and that was a very productive garden,” said West.
Both students said attending WE Day was an exciting experience. Maltby said that she was particularly inspired by Mi’kmaw poet, Rebecca Thomas, who shared her poem, “Pain in All Directions.”
“She was a slam poet. She wrote a poem about residential schools and her father was in one. She was awesome,” said Maltby.
Maltby said there’s a lot of empowerment that was spread.
“I will definitely try to use that when I help out around the community,” she said.
Maltby said that one of the most important ideas she took away from the event was the importance of collaborating with others to make positive things happen.
“It’s important to work together,” said Maltby. “I think I will definitely use the things they talked about in helping out with the community.”
West said that one of his favourite speakers was Samra Zafar, a human rights activist originally from Pakistan who came to Canada in an arranged marriage. She later escaped domestic abuse to complete high school and university.
“She had the top marks in the entire university, and that was very inspiring,” said West.
He said he enjoyed hearing the stories of people who have overcome challenges to make a difference.
“The day itself was very inspirational. It opened my mind to a lot of things, like residential schools, and domestic abuse. There were many inspirational speeches about being who you are. Don’t be afraid to show who you are, and always follow your dreams,” said West.
West said he knows what he has learned from the day.
“I’ve learned ways I can help out in the community here and globally more,” he added.
With a contribution from Pat Healey of The Laker News and The Weekly Press.