It was a motivational day for about 16,000 people from across the province, including 74 students from NACI.
It also provided an chance for one student from NACI to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, taking the stage to speak to all of those 16,000 people.
The 2013 We Day was held in Winnipeg at the MTS Centre last Wednesday, Oct. 30, with 74 students, 6 teachers and 2 parents from Neepawa taking part. The day is facilitated through the global activist group Free The Children, and aims to “empower a generation of young global citizens through an inspirational event and year-long educational initiative”.
This year's inspirational event included the opportunity for students to hear from speakers like Spencer West – who has no legs but has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, inspiring students to “redefine what's possible”, NACI student Cherish Epp explained; Martin Luther – the son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; and Molly Burke, a journalist who was kidnapped in Somalia, and released, but returned to set up a major program for refugees.
There were also a handful of other activist speakers and entertainment groups such as the Kenyan Boys choir, which all helped youth leave the day with a clear message – it is possible for anyone, of any age, to make a change in the world.
“There was a 10-year-old who was a global activist, and it makes you think, if they can do it at 10, we can do it,” Epp, a Grade 8 student, explained.
“It really motivates you to continue to take part in (globally sensitive initiatives) because it shows us we can actually make a difference,” NACI Grade 12 student Emma Schmall added. “It's the power of WE.”
NACI students are well aware of that power.
The school's globally and philanthropically-oriented HOPE (Helping Our World Pursue Equality) student group is in its third year of taking part in Free The Children initiatives, aiming to make a difference both globally and locally.
Over the past two years, HOPE has raised and contributed $10,000 toward water sanitation and health care in Kenya, they've volunteered locally for the Salvation Army kettle service, collecting coats for the Koats for Kids program, cleaning the Rotary Park, and collecting food on Hallowe'en for the We Scare Hunger food bank initiative. They've also undertaken several other initiatives and have had several of its members take part in oversees humanitarian trips over the past few summers.
And, as a result of that continued involvement from a smaller, rural school, NACI was chosen as one of only three schools to have a student speak at this year's We Day in Winnipeg.
“We were recognized for our commitment, as a group, to make a difference,” teacher Michelle Young explained.
Through a six-person shortlist of HOPE members, and a name-out-of-a-hat final selection, Grade 10 student Danielle Hanke was chosen to represent NACI as a speaker in front of the crowd of 16,000 people. She spoke about NACI's efforts, as well as Free The Children's programs.
“It was amazing,” Hanke explained, noting she was even in a makeup chair beside Martin Sheen at one point in the rehearsal process. “It was so nerve-wrecking, but I'm so glad I got a chance to do it. There were a lot of great speakers there.”
“She looked like she had been doing it for years,” Young added of Hanke's speech. “She did great.”
NACI's HOPE group will now continue taking part in Free The Children's yearly fundraising campaigns.
They are currently selling rafiki bracelets which were made by Kenyan mothers, and are available for $12 - $2 of which goes toward HOPE fundraising and $10 of which goes directly back to supporting the Kenyan communities.
“The presenters were inspiring and we know our HOPE members are very motivated and have new ideas and are eager to get more events and action planned for the year,” Young concluded. “We Day was absolutely phenomenal from a teacher's point of view.”