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Susan Egan: We Day inspires students

By CONTRIBUTED
November 4, 2012 · Updated 4:51 PM
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Grade 12 Vernon secondary school student Sylvanna Wilson speaks in front of thousands at We Day in Vancouver last month. / photo submitted

Free the Children’s We Day was an incredible event, bringing together 20,000 student leaders from across the province at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, to celebrate youth-inspired social change happening here in B.C. and around the world.

The arena was packed with students who are making a difference in their schools, their communities, and globally! One hundred and thirty Vernon high school students from VSS, Kal, Fulton, Bloom and Seaton attended the Oct. 18 event, and some elementary schools were able to send students as well.

Speakers and performers included  Craig and Marc Kielberger, the founders of Free the Children, Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Magic Johnson, One Drop from Cirque du Soleil, Spencer West,  Demi Lovato, Sean Desmond, OneRepublic, Cody Simpson…and Vernon’s very own Sylvanna Wilson!

Sylvanna is a Grade 12 Global Action student at Vernon secondary school who spoke about her experience volunteering in Kenya this past summer. She talked about how she fundraised for her trip with bake sales and bottle drives, the wonderful village that she volunteered at, and the friendships she made with the people there. The experience was a life-changing one for Sylvanna, and she spoke from the heart.

“Going to Kenya with the purpose of making a difference, I had no idea how much I would learn myself,” she said. “ Experiencing the gratitude and incredible happiness that villagers have for everything  in their lives made me think  a lot about how we live our lives here at home. Their kind and loving nature made me feel so welcome, like I was part of their community.

“My experience taught me that relationships are the most important things in life, and the friendships that we make and the connections with others are what really matters.”

Grade 12 Kal student Chris Leverman was very inspired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“It was an honour to be in the same room as such a great man and to hear him speak,” he said. “He talked about how it felt to finally be able to cast his vote in a democratic South Africa, after the years and years of apartheid.  It’s so important that we all vote in elections here, since so many people in the world don’t have that right.”

Chris also commented on the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s ability to connect with youth.

“He turned the focus away from himself and praised all of us for being VSP’s, very special people.”

It was Charles Bloom secondary’s first We Day experience, and it was very meaningful for Grade 12 student Sierra Krog.

“I had an amazing time at We Day, I was so inspired at the end of it,” she said. “We got to listen to some pretty extraordinary people talk and perform. I will remember the day for a life time.”

Grade 12 VSS student Valentina Correale was very moved by the event.

“It was more than just the experience to be there to listen to the speakers’ stories and see the performers; it was the push and motivation I needed to not only follow my own dreams, but to try and help make a difference in someone else’s life,” she said.

The Fulton We Day student group added that we should all keep in mind that “any positive change big or small can make a difference.”

Highlights of We Day Vancouver and We Day Toronto will be broadcast on Nov. 11 at 4 p.m.

Susan Egan is a teacher at Vernon secondary school, where she teaches law/info tech, health and careers and is department head for info tech and planning.