Fulton secondary school students are enthusiastic about their recent trip to a Me to We conference in Vancouver and the Me to We group in their school.
“It shows that kids our age are able to make changes. In high school we often forget that we have that power. Being given the opportunity to help others helps me,” said Lenaya Sampson, Grade 12.
The Fulton Me to We group is made up of aboriginal students with Jody Dargatz, aboriginal support worker, and non-aboriginal students supported by teachers Erin Schroeder and Melanie Jorgenson.
Me to We is a non-profit social enterprise group started by Canadian brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger, working as a partner with Free the Children, which began in 1995 after Craig, then 12, gathered 11 school friends to begin fighting child labour.
The emphasis of the group is on volunteerism, service to others and social involvement, whose message is to “free the children from poverty, free the children from exploitation, free the children from the notion that they are powerless to effect change.”
“It is centred on helping youth and others become the best they can, showing that they can make choices to have a better community and world,” said Matt Schiman, Grade 8, a Me to We member.
“The conference with 10,000 students from around the province at Rogers Arena was amazing. The speakers were Roméo Dallaire and Martin Luther King Jr. I saw a lot of kids younger than I am who are involved and that was inspirational, too.”
Sampson was impressed by an eight-year-old and an 11-year-old speaking about child labour.
“They are passionate about what they were doing and so motivated, showing us what we can do,” she said.
Dargatz said the conference brought up many issues, including women’s rights, bullying, clean water, and education.
“Sometimes it only takes one person to make a change, to start a ripple effect. We think our school can become a leader for other schools in the community, including in aboriginal issues,” she said. “We want to promote change for the way people perceive aboriginal youth and people.”
Jessica Chillihitzia attended the Me to We conference last year.
“I really appreciate the Free the Children group. We have so much here that we can forget those who have so little. This is a way for us to help them,” she said.
Sampson added, “Poverty is not just in Third-World countries. We see the effects here.”
The Fulton Me to We group is working on a project to build a school in a developing country, as well as awareness about a variety of youth issues.
“We are working for greater understanding and acceptance for everyone in our school and community. We have a project that will involve the community and First Nations families on issues like education and help people learn more about background and history. It is OK to be struggling in any way and reach out for help, and we hope awareness will lead to change,” said Schiman.
Chillihitzia said the goal is to help other people get to a place that’s livable and good.
“We have seen incidents of discrimination in our school based on many things, like race or clothes,” she said. “We are working towards being able to talk openly and equality for all and giving everyone a chance to achieve their potential.”
The Me to We group made a presentation and encouraged other students to join at a school assembly. Selected students attended a leadership workshop that was part of a KOBO Power of Stories speaking tour package which was won for the school by Jorgenson. The package included inspirational speakers and 100 KOBO readers for the school.
“Since I got involved, I can see that youth leadership can do a lot for the community and make kids realize that they can make a change,” said Sampson. “The students in our school have very diverse backgrounds but we can work together towards being compassionate and understanding.”