WE Day Montreal brought together thousands of young Anglophone students who share the dream of building a better world at a rally at Théâtre Saint-Denis on Friday, Feb. 24th in a celebration of youthful exuberance, hope, and the power of trans-formative change. A separate We Day event for Francophone students took place the day before at the prestigious 100 year old theatre located near the downtown UQAM campus.
“We Day” was started in 2007 by Craig and Marc Kielburger, the brothers and activists who founded the non-profit organization WE, formerly Free the Children, with the goal of empowering youth to make positive change happen in their own backyards and around the globe. Tickets to the event were given to students who had made a difference in their communities by volunteering. National Co-Title Sponsors RBC and TELUS made it possible for thousands of Montreal students to attend WE Day Montreal at no cost while tens of thousands more watched the event streamed live on WE.org/watchweday.
WE Day Montreal featured an impressive roster of inspirational speakers and A-list entertainers. Jordan Smith, Tyler Shaw, members of the Emmy-nominated series DEGRASSI, Celebrity Marauders and more lit up the WE Day Stage, along with youths who shared their stories about making change in their neighbourhoods and everywhere on the planet. “I am continuously inspired by the thousands of youth at WE Day who are making real and positive impacts in their communities every single day,” said Multi-Platinum selling and Juno-award nominated singer-songwriter, Tyler Shaw. “I am truly honoured to be at WE Day Montreal, celebrating the remarkable actions taken by students in Quebec and proving that we each have a powerful voice that is worth sharing.
“WE Day celebrates the amazing young people who have taken action at home and around the world, to create sustainable change for a better tomorrow,” said Craig Kielburger, co-founder of WE. “Standing in a stadium full of passionate youth will affirm your belief that real change can happen – and is happening every single day right here in Quebec. This past school year more than 240 schools and groups around the province made an incredible impact in their own communities and around the world through their commitment and passion for change.”
More than 2000 students filled the storied theatre for the 5th straight year in a row at WE Day Montreal, a far cry perhaps from the numbers at stadium-filled WE Day events elsewhere. However, the message that together WE can make a big difference was no less powerful for the smaller venue. We Day Montreal featured the inspiring story of teen anti-bullying activist Lynelle Cantwell who hit back at cyber-bullies who had voted her ‘Ugliest Girl’ in her school by writing an open letter on her Facebook site, saying that she felt sorry for them. Motivational speaker and author Spencer West, a legless 31 year-old man who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise $750,000 for clean-water programs in Kenya – he’s raised over $500,000 so far – was brimming with excitement at WE Day Montreal. Republic Records artist and winner of the Voice Jordan Smith sang Somebody to Love with the G-Major St. George’s School Glee Club to the roar of crowd’s approval.
Among the 24 speakers who addressed the enthusiastic crowd was award-winning actress and activist Mia Farrow who spoke about the need to push ahead to make meaningful change happen. “Any problem you look at or any issue you look at for long enough and hard enough with all your heart and soul, you will begin to see solutions and you will begin to see where you can put your shoulder and push,” she said during her presentation. “I think that’s the most important thing I can convey to an activist, where to push.”
To participate in WE Day events, students must first be registered in the WE Schools program which brings young people together with educators, giving them the practical tools and guidance they need to become effective advocates for change to make the world a better place. WE schools and groups are required to complete one local and one global action relating to any social justice issue they choose. Schools and groups then report on these actions to become eligible for WE Day tickets.
“Every year, more than 200,000 students, from over 10,000 schools around the globe earn their ticket to WE Day through the yearlong WE Schools program, creating positive impacts at their schools and in their communities,” said Craig Kielburger, co-founder of WE. “WE Day Montreal will unite and celebrate thousands of young leaders who are working passionately for the causes they care about most.”
WE Day Montreal kick-starts yet another year of change for the WE Movement. Individual students are encouraged to take the WE Pledge to make a difference and to be an example of kindness and service to others. A global movement of 2.4 million young people strong, youth involved with WE have raised $62 million for more than 2,400 local and global organizations, volunteered 19.9 million hours for local and global causes and collected over 7.6 million pounds of food through service learning programs and campaigns.
by Deborah Rankin – mtltimes.ca
Feature image: Sarah Steben Dancers – Montreal Dance Collective, Sarah Steben Dancers, perform for 2,000 students and educators at WE Day Montreal at the Theatre St. Denis on February 24, 2017. Photo Credit: Lexine Menard