Canyon-Lister Elementary School students at We Day in Calgary.

Creston Valley elementary students attend We Day in Calgary

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On Oct. 24, 19 Canyon-Lister Elementary School students attended the inspirational event known as We Day, a youth movement motivating and leading change on both a local and global level. It is a celebration of a year’s activities connected to the We Act program. Last year, the focus was water and CLES students, with many generous donations from the community of Creston, raised pennies ($575) to provide 27 people living in Ecuador with water for life. For their efforts, the students were gifted with tickets to We Day.

The Scotiabank Saddledome was filled to capacity, seating 16,000 youth listening to stories of how challenges can be conquered and how the youth of today are the generation to face these challenges and overcome. Martin Luther King III led the audience in a declaration, “Spread the word! Have you heard? Our nation is going to be a great generation!”

To start the day, Nikkole Heavy-Shields, a young, strong, Aboriginal woman, spoke of the importance to be kind, to have humility in all you do and to become educated.

“ For Aboriginal or non -Aboriginal, education is our liberation, education is still our buffalo,” she said. “Like the buffalo … education is what sustains us.”

Amanda Lindhout shared her story of being kidnapped in Somalia. She remained in captivity for 10 months. Her message was one of understanding: recognizing the role of war, poverty, loss of parents and culture and how they contributed to the desperate measures taken by the kidnappers. They kidnapped someone who represented everything they didn’t have — someone with an education, food, family, freedom. As she lost the gifts most of us take for granted (the sky, fresh air, her name), she talked about the inner choices we all must make and how her choice, if she survived, would be to make a difference. Since her release, Lindhout consistently returns to Somalia to provide essential supplies, assisting with community development projects and building schools.

Spencer West, a double amputee challenged each and every person in the audience to dream the impossible and then to take the action necessary to make that dream a reality. West climbed up Mount Kilimanjaro last year to inspire others to overcome their challenges, to make a difference. Performer Nelly Furtado sings a song, Spirit Indestructible, and its video chronicles West’s climb — his determination, inner strength and, amazingly, his visible joy during his climb. It inspires all that watch it. This year, West will “walk” across Canada in the We Create Change tour to raise awareness regarding the issue of education. He encouraged youth to learn about the issues, and why 57 million people have no access to education. Some children have no schools and others, primarily girls, are forbidden to attend. Education is about freeing a people from an existence filled with poverty and slavery, offering them a world of opportunity.

Chris Tse, a poet, echoed this theme as he recited his thought provoking lyrics. He ends with, “No longer can you say you didn’t know.”

Along with the many presenters, was music, including Down with Webster and Shawn Desmond. The Kenyan Boys choir sang Like A Bird with Furtado. Just having returned from a school building project in Kenya, she appeared as though she was singing with an old group of friends.

CLES students had a full day of listening, cheering, dancing the We Day dance and most importantly hearing the lesson of the day: “You are important. You can create change. Your actions, big or small, can change the world.”

In 2,200 coin drives across the country, the total pennies raised for the Water Project, if stacked one upon the other, would reach up to the International Space Station six times! Add all those “little” pennies together and thousands of lives have been changed, for the better, forever.

A few days after the We Day event, a student began asking about starting a project she would like to see happen at the school, the Scare Hunger project. Recognizing that there are many people who live in our own valley that are forced to utilize the services of the food bank on a regular basis, this group of girls spearheaded trick or treating for cans of food, instead of candy, at Halloween.

Let the change begin!

—CANYON-LISTER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

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