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From me to we one student at a time
More than 15,000 students poured into Key Arena on March 21 including students from Tahoma Middle School, Kentwood High and Kentlake High.
Students couldn’t buy tickets or sign up for We Day, they had to earn their spot. Specifically, they had to participate in community service projects — some with a focus on their local community and some with a global reach.
Students from the three area schools participated in food and supply drives, raised thousands of dollars to support international nonprofits, are taking part in events to raise awareness of struggles that people around the world face, and some are even traveling to Ghana, a country on the West coast of Africa, as part of community missions trip.
According to the We Day website, the event, which is sponsored by several organizations including Free the Children and Me to We, is about empowering young people to make a difference and helping them realize the ability they have to impact both their communities and the world.
That message is repeated over and over again to We Day attendees: you are one person, but one person can make a difference.
We Day reports that over 160,000 students from 4,000 schools have participated in a We Day event this school year.
The event itself is about celebration for the work the students have accomplished and motivation for them to spread a spirit of service. Performances from popular singers are also mixed in.
“All young people should experience something like this,” Kentwood junior Sarah Caviness said.
Famous faces at We Day Seattle included Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and quarterback Russell Wilson as well as fellow Hawks, Martin Luther King III, Cody Simpson, Joe Jonas, and Flo Rida to name a few. Students were also on stage, telling their stories of how they work to be “we instead of me” as well as sharing the stories of famous young people who have made a difference like Malala Yousafzai.
Among the students who attended from Tahoma Middle School, Kentlake and Kentwood, Spencer West — who doesn’t have legs and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro on his hands in 2012 — was a favorite speaker.
“He was just really encouraging and I felt like he believed in kids,” said Kentlake freshman Analiz Baluca.
Students from all three schools used words like “inspiring” and “eye-opening” to describe their day. One student said, “it’s the most inspirational thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Another favorite speaker that many of the students mentioned was Derrick Coleman, who is deaf and plays fullback for the Seahawks.
“All his life he was told he couldn’t do things because he was deaf,” Kentlake freshman Brittany Royall said of why Coleman stood out to her. “And people tell me I can’t do things.”
And that was the message of the day, Tahoma Middle School associated student body adviser Lindsay Richter said it’s not about what someone doesn’t have, but what they choose to do with what they do have.
“It was a way bigger event than I thought it would be,” said Avery Simpson, a seventh grader at Tahoma Middle School.
The other aspect of We Day that students at all three schools specifically mentioned was the impact that seeing their peers on stage, and seeing students younger than themselves on stage, had on them.
“I always thought it was older people,” Baluca said of people who change the world.
That illusion was shattered for students by high schoolers and elementary students who shared the work they have done fundraising for causes.
“There were kids in, like, elementary,” Caviness said. “If they can make a difference, then why can’t we. They had so much confidence.”
The message that they are capable of impacting the world came through for students loud and clear.
“Even though you’re just one person you can make a difference and leave the world a better place,” Tahoma Middle School sixth grader Megan Foster said of how she would summarize the message of We Day.
The takeaway, students said, was that they want to continue to serve the community and make a difference. Students talked about raising money to build schools in other countries, and going on humanitarian trips as just a few of the ways they want to carry the message of We Day forward and implement it in their lives.
Kentlake freshman Ashley Bailey said she has learned a lot about the world and about herself through getting involved and going to We Day.
“I feel like you find yourself in service,” Bailey said.