This is Delicia Raveenthrarajan: author, singer/songwriter, world traveler, public speaker, and everyday teenager. At a young age, Delicia was drawn to doing little things that could connect her to the outside world. What started with collecting pennies to raise funds for a school in Kenya gave way to her writing an original song, “One World,” about her work as a young activist. The song—her story—was recorded in Demi Lovato’s recording studio last June.
By Sarah Fox
Introduced to WE Schools at nine years old, Delicia Raveenthrarajan has snatched every opportunity to bring the program’s lessons to life, in the name of empowering herself and others. In fact, her list of crusades is so long she hardly knows where to start. One thing the 16-year-old knows for sure is that, somewhere along the way, she became a leader. And the skills she’s garnered continue to open doors to a bright future.
Over the past seven years, the outgoing teen has moved from being inspired to seeding inspiration, and from seeking confidence to spreading it. Below, we retrace the path from aspiring leader to role model.
WE Day Toronto: A leader inspired.
At 10 years old, the musician-in-the-making stared down from her balcony seat at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, amazed by the performance before her. Not only was she watching entertainers the likes of Nelly Furtado belt out billboard toppers at WE Day, she was listening to world leaders speak with infectious passion. Perched in the stands, it felt like they were all speaking directly to her—they sensed her potential to change the world; they believed in it. On that day, she’d never felt so close to the person she wanted to be.
WE Day X: Opening the toolbox to empowerment.
After soaking in WE Day Toronto for the first time, Delicia wanted to take her learnings to new heights. Her school had just adopted the WE Schools program, and she was eager to dip into the curriculum resources for students, specifically, how to organize an event. Translation: she would need to study up on managing a budget and fundraising. (Luckily, all that info is covered within WE Schools’ campaign resources.)
After gathering the necessary knowledge, she took a lead role in organizing a WE Day X event for her Scarborough community. Coined “WE R 1,” the event brought together seven schools, as well as community leaders. As one, they celebrated the difference they could make when united. “It felt so empowering to watch the event come together and realize that I truly had everything I needed within me to make a difference,” Delicia says. With the help of WE Schools, she realized “you have all the light you need within you to make an impact.”
ME to WE Trip to Kenya: Perspective gained.
The next step for Delicia was to fulfill her dream to visit a community in rural Kenya. When she landed in Kenya, she recalls, “I witnessed joy, happiness and gratitude that was so pure and unapologetic.” On the ground, the teen learned firsthand about Maasai culture and got the opportunity to see how her efforts back home had positively impacted the people in this region and provided them with the opportunity to live healthy and fulfilling lives. The insight drove home Delicia’s natural inclination to give back. “Kenya taught me perspective,” she shares. “It made me aware of my potential and who I really am.” By its end, the trip taught the girl with an already infectious smile to “smile from the soul.”
WE Club president: Determined to grow.
Moving into high school, Delicia’s ambition for giving continued to flourish. When presented with the chance to improve her new WE Club as its president, she jumped on board. She told her club’s advisor when she approached him to oversee the club, “I’ll do all the work. I’ll fill in all the paper work. I’ll manage the budget. Just be there.”
From here, a relationship grew—Dr. Tony Leong, the music program’s conductor of the Sir Oliver Mowat C.I. Orchestras and Choirs, became her mentor. His leadership training ranged from teaching Delicia the importance of self-confidence to coaching her on public speaking. Since those early lessons, Delicia has, through practice, transformed public speaking into a profession. Working in partnership with schoolboards across North America, she travels around to schools to speak to students about mental health.
She credits her mentor for the leader she is today. “He has guided and encouraged me through everything—the good, the challenging and everything in between.
A WE Schools graduation : A calling come full circle.
On her second ME to WE trip to Kenya, Delicia sat under an Oleleshwa tree in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, reflecting on the years past and the root of her inspiration. Memories came flooding in; she pulled out her notebook and translated her thoughts into a song.
Her next visit to Kenya would be in January 2017, only six months since her last trip. This time, though, it was more than just volunteer travel motivating her journey across the globe; she was there to sing.
A special performance had been arranged to celebrate the first class of graduates from Kisaruni’s Oleleshwa campus—one of two all-girls secondary school campuses opened by WE Charity. The event would also be marking the opening of the Ngulot campus, the new all-boys secondary school.
Five years prior to this date, Delicia had helped organize a penny drive at her school in support of building the boy’s school or her to share her song during a community-wide celebration of a school she helped to build from across the world was a dream come true. “Taking my song full circle and being able to debut it in Kenya… I was so touched by it,” Delicia gushes. “I’ll never forget that.”
Today, Delicia proudly bears an Oleleshwa tree on her forearm, and she describes her next steps. As she explains, it’s a reminder of the role model she wants to be; “the tree grows stronger in the face of adversity” and that’s the example she hopes to set.
On top of her multiple visits to Kenya, Delicia has also traveled to Ecuador with ME to WE, in addition to taking part in the advanced leadership training in Arizona with Take Acton Camp. And she doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. Next summer, she heads to Ethiopia. Here, she’ll see WE Villages implement its sustainable development model in its ninth country, this time through a partnership with imagine1day, a Canadian-based charity and education-focused development organization that has been operating in Ethiopia since 2008.
As much as Delicia enjoys jet-setting around the world, gaining life-changing volunteer experience, it’s WE Schools that grounds the teen and keeps her motivated to create the world she wants to see. In her leadership role with the school’s WE club, she hopes to inspire classmates to join her in affecting positive change—at home and abroad. She sums up her sentiments: “Through the WE Club, I am able to prove to these students that they have people who believe in them and [prove] their capability to achieve greatness.”