Optimism and the desire to create global change for the better seem to shine brightest in youth. Free the Children's We Day is a way to celebrate that youthful exuberance towards making a positive difference in the world.
Earlier this month, 12 students and two teachers from Bonnyville Centralized High School (BCHS) took part in the We Day celebrations in Vancouver.
The students, who are part of the leadership team at BCHS, met with other motivated youth, as they discussed social issues and were treated to several speakers, including former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev and Hollywood actress Mia Farrow.
This is the sixth year Northern Lights School Division and specifically BCHS has partnered with Free the Children, an international charity and youth movement founded in 1995 by children's rights advocate Craig Kielburger. In doing so, the school has been invited each year to take part in a We Day conference. Grade 11 student Katelyn Burak and Grade 12 student Sydnie Paproski talked about the importance of youth getting involved in making positive changes in the world.
“The younger you are, the easier it is to be inspired,” said Paproski. “It is so rewarding to be involved in helping people and it is so inspiring to know that there are so many people out there thinking the same thing.”
Burak said she has gained more confidence being involved in the school's leadership team and feels she is part of a larger cycle of youth creating change.
“We're the next step in making change. Then the next generation will come after us. It's a cycle,” she explained.
BCHS's leadership team was formed through a merger of the student council and the HOPE group (Helping Our Peers Everywhere) and now has over 40 student members.
The leadership team has organized and fundraised several events in town with both local and international focuses.
BCHS teacher and leadership staff member Rebekah Donaldson said the leadership team provides knowledge and skills for more than just social justice.
“If you're involved in leadership now, there is a good chance you will be involved later on in your life, in your job, with your family. The leadership and organizational skills you learn now will be carried forward with you through life.”
Nicole Baker, who is also a BCHS teacher and leadership staff member, said groups and organizations like the leadership team and Free the Children give youth a sense of hope for the future.
“It's not only life skills. These groups create the kind of citizens we would want to run our country. And with youth it has that ripple effect, where a few kids talk about it, they pass it on and the dialogue opens up.”
Paproski and Burak agreed social media and the current availability of information and the means to immediate and global communication have played large roles in recent popular movements around the globe.
“People are always connected to their computer, their phone, the TV,” said Burak. “You can always have access to information.”
Paproski added, “With people becoming more technologically advanced, more people are going to the internet for news rather than the mainstream media. We are becoming more informed.”