Students challenged to be community activists

All the cell phones and iPads waving in the air weren’t there because they were charging their batteries. But they might as well have been since the energy at Tacoma Public Schools rally at Life Center last week certainly sparked with electricity in the air.

Some 2,000 seventh graders from around the district gathered Oct. 3 for “We Day,” a high-energy, focused program meant to promote the power young people have to create positive social change in their local and global communities. The event was modeled after the international “We Day” program to inspire teens to be active in their communities.

The “We Day-Tacoma” rally was the kickoff to a year-long program that offers curricular resources to help turn the event’s inspiration into sustained activation with practical tools. Students, for example, chose a local or global cause to support and develop associated community service goals to be completed by the end of the school year.

The event included a barrage of energy from student acts and local community performers as well as a roster of inspirational speakers that included Lincoln High School football coach and former Seahawk Jon Kitna; singer/song writer, 2011 finalist on “The Voice” and Stadium High School graduate Vicci Martinez; Ms. Wheelchair America Jennifer Adams of Tacoma; current “The Voice” contestant and Stadium grad Stephanie Johnson; and rapper Rockwell Powers.

All the effort and all the words of inspiration targeted students like Meeker Middle School student Daniel Tauas. He doesn’t volunteer much, but wants to get more involved in his community.

“I’m just too busy right now,” he said, noting that he plays football and basketball. “I just don’t have the time with sports and everything.”

But the message of the event is that there is always time to spark change through community service.

“It starts with a decision every day to be a positive person,” Adams said, saying that everyone has a talent that should be shared. “You have something to offer the world.”

“We Day” is part of a family of organizations, including “Free The Children” and “Me to We,” that has a shared goal: to empower a generation to shift the world from “me” to “we” – through how people act, how people give, the choices people make on what to buy and what to wear, the media they consume. The effort has involved 1.7 million students from 5,700 schools in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, which raised $26 million for 900 causes and donated 5.1 million hours of volunteer hours.

Photos by Stadium High School students Emma Joy Miller, Brannon Ronia and Lauren Schultz at the event can be found at http://www.tacoma.k12.wa.us/photos/Pages/we-day.aspx.

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