Sunday, November 19, 2017

Student Activism, Volunteerism, And Social Engagement - Empowering Gen WE

ASIDE 2017
Rarely does a moment emerge that highlights the enormous contributions to global activism that young people make every day. The WE Day UN celebration on Wednesday, September 20, 2017, was perhaps that moment.

Rarely does a genuine opportunity emerge that promotes engagement and social justice on both micro and macro scales. The WE Movement as a whole may very well be that platform.

And rarely does an organization emerge that dedicates itself to collective movements of change. We were honored this fall to be selected to attend WE Day UN with our seventh graders.

Source: WE Day

WE Movement started over twenty years ago by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger with the express intent to take action and make the world a better place. It includes the WE Charity, ME to WE Social Enterprise, WE Schools, and WE Day.

The WE Schools program offers classroom resources, lesson ideas, practical videos, educator packs, and step-by-step plans for leading global change. The four step program challenges students to investigate and learn, create an action plan, take action, and report and celebrate. Issues of social justice and human rights are all tackled in the spirit of young people making a difference, and it provides the tools to take action.

Source: WE Schools

The WE Day gathering is perhaps the culmination of these efforts. At various WE Day events across the country, students and educators come together to unite their voices in a multimedia festival of speakers and performers that inspire collective movements of change.

We were fortunate enough to be invited to attend the first-annual WE Day UN congress in New York City, at Madison Square Garden. Students cannot buy tickets to WE Day; they have to be invited in recognition of their volunteerism, acts of citizen service, or hours dedicated to communal justice. Our students felt lucky to be acknowledged for their work in social entrepreneurship, public service announcements, and other local actions.

Part of the ten-year anniversary of the WE Day events, this new WE Day incarnation coincided with the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meetings in New York. As a result, world leaders past and present visited the Theater at Madison Square Garden to share their stories and motivate the thousands of students in the tri-state area about how to make the world a better, cleaner, and fairer place to live. Leading figures such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Chelsea Clinton, former President of Ireland Mary Robison, Whoopi Goldberg, and others all shared messages of equality and change.

WE Day itself is hard to describe. It is part motivational barnburner, part TED Talk, part rock concert, part panel discussion, part global colloquy, part volunteerism jamboree, and part digital extravaganza. The speakers and guests appeared on stage in rapid fire: YouTube celebrities and Disney Channel alums who elicited shrieks from the kids, and respected authors and actors who drew applause from the adults. definitely knows how to appeal to its young audience. And to be fair, a regular parade of corporate sponsors also spoke at WE Day, to emphasize the work that responsible business partners are doing in supporting the cause and in sharing the planet.

The effect that this day had on our students was massive. They came away with an excitement to carry the movement forward, but perhaps most striking for many was the persistent commentary on the lack of rights for women and girls around the world. Their plight must be all of ours, both for women and men. It could not have been more powerfully put than when President Trudeau took the stage to emphasize we need more "HE for SHE" in the fight equal rights.

Most importantly, our students realized that WE is Everyone. Being empowered to change the world starts with them, and they don't have to wait for adults to do it.

We look forward to sustaining these themes throughout the months ahead. This event was an ideal way to jumpstart the school year, and we look forward to empowering our Gen WE students to be changemakers for the greater good.

Source: WE Day


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