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27 Jan, Friday
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Montreal Families

We Day Montreal celebrates socially conscious students

With nearly 4,000 students and educators driven by a passion for social justice in attendance, Theatre St. Denis was overflowing with unbridled energy at Montreal’s edition of We Day. This event celebrates the collective efforts of elementary and high school students who want to help others on a local and global scale through social justice initiatives. Actors, activists, artists and musicians took to the theatre’s main stage to present motivational speeches and perform inspiring musical performances in March.

No tickets are sold for We Day – in order to attend the event, students had to be part of the We Act program, created by Free The Children (a charity borne out of Canadian brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger’s desire to make a difference in the lives of those in need).

Students had to complete two projects, one that helps those in need locally and one that helps those abroad. The students tackle a variety of social issues from poverty and hunger to bullying and self-confidence and are given advice and access to resources in order to develop and execute their plans.

Secondary 4 student Aurélie Verreault, along with her peers from St. Patrick’s High School in Quebec City, collected donations of winter clothes for people in need and organized bake sales as part of their local initiatives, and participated in the We Are Silent campaign, where students must be silent for half a day in order to bring awareness to the poverty, exploitation and denial of education that girls around the world face every day.

A group of students from Nesbitt School, an elementary school located in the Rosemont – La Petite-Patrie district, earned their tickets to We Day by raising money and organizing a food drive where canned goods were donated to Sun Youth. “We are really confident that we can change things,” said an 11-year old girl from the school, her eyes bright with excitement. “We just really want to make a difference,” her peer chimed in. They also participated in the We Are Silent campaign.

Jonathan Emile, a Grammy-nominated musician, shared his personal experience on being diagnosed with cancer. He held the crowd’s undivided attention as he spoke with eloquence and sincerity about the most difficult moments in his life and the importance of using your time to promote positivity and to help those around you. “Music was the original social media because it connects all of us,” he said.

Emile talked about the fleeting nature of time and how he was able to channel his feelings and his fears into music. He left the crowd with a question that captured the essence of the day: “What will you do with your time?”

Musical guests kept the crowd energized and on their feet with lively performances between the speeches. JUNO-nominated, Montreal-based rock band Jonas & The Massive Attraction had the audience clapping and singing along to their infectious single Breathing. Participants were also treated to performances from Karl Wolf and Kardinal Offishall.

Craig Kielburger later took the stage to a thunderous round of applause. Overwhelmed with gratitude, Kielburger thanked the crowd, and told them all their efforts “add up to a tidal wave of kindness and can change the world.”

We Day is held annually across Canada in nine cities, as well as in multiple cities in the United States and in the United Kingdom. Since 2007, the We Act program has raised $45 million for different causes and has enlisted the help of activist Malala Yousafzai, musician Demi Lovato and philanthropist Sir Richard Branson to deliver messages of empowerment and to incite social change in youth.

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