From Toronto to Seattle, London to the Maasai Mara, a virtual WE Day event touched all corners of the world.

By Zoe Demarco

 

November 29, 2018, marked the second-ever WE Day Connect!

Hosted by ETALK’s LA correspondent and the new host of CTV’s The Launch, Liz Trinnear, and comedian and motivational speaker Khiry Johnson, the online, interactive event celebrated youth, schools and community groups that are working hard to create change, at home and around the world. Livestreamed to classrooms around the globe, WE Day Connect featured videos from special guests like Connor Franta and Johnny Orlando, life-changing surprises from TELUS, Microsoft and RBC, and young change-makers who are tackling issues from bullying to clean water access.

WE Day events are stadium-sized celebrations that honour young people’s efforts to better their local and global communities. To recreate that magic on a larger scale, WE Day Connect helped WE Day go digital for an international audience.

Schools and groups from 49 different countries—including India, Brazil and Italy—tuned in to the live event. Check out some of the amazing participants below!

Missed the livestream? Want to relive the excitement? Click here to watch WE Day Connect on demand!


St. Hope Leadership Academy, New York, NY

Students at this NYC school have partnered with Harlem Grown, a non-profit that teaches youth healthy habits through mentorship and hands-on education. They’ve been taking action for sustainability through the WE Go Green campaign ! The school’s green team composts every day, regularly volunteers in the Harlem Grown garden and is teaching other students to make healthy food choices. Students have learned the importance of composting and recycling, and have developed sustainable habits to better care for their communities. To reward the group for their incredible work to make their school healthier, WE surprised students with gardening tools so they can start their very own school garden!

Quote. The biggest lesson I learned is that you don't have to be an adult to make a difference. I learned that the smallest act of kindness can profoundly affect others and make our community a better place. Most importantly, I learned that I can do anything I set my mind to. Unquote. St. Hope Leadership Academy student.


Northwood Middle School, Washington

Singer-songwriter Johnny Orlando surprised the crowd with a recorded video message, giving a shout out to this Washington school! Over the past year, Northwood Middle School’s WE Club has taken part in WE Are Silent, vowing not to speak in order to raise money for those who are silenced. They’re also passionate about mental health, LGBTQ+ rights and the environment!

Quote. They're proof that every individual can create change, but when we come together as a community we can make a massive impact. Unquote. Johnny Orlando.


John Polanyi Collegiate Institute, Toronto, ON

From fighting hunger to raising awareness of child abuse, students at Toronto’s John Polanyi Collegiate Institute are tackling social issues in their community and around the world. They’ve even created their very own social enterprise! Called the YYZ Inbound Initiative, the group designed T-shirts emblazoned with the “YYZ” logo to represent the code for Pearson Airport—one of the first things that many newcomers to Canada see. With a portion of the profits from each item sold, the students purchased school supplies to help Syrian refugees settle into life in the Great White North. They’re currently fundraising so that their whole group can take a ME to WE Trip to Ecuador. To help them with their efforts, RBC surprised the group with a $1,500 donation!


MacDonald Drive Junior High, St. John’s, NL

These East Coast students are passionate about tackling cyberbullying! Through the WE Rise Above campaign, students have held Pink Shirt Days for anti-bullying, opened up inclusive lunchtime and recess spaces in the school grounds, and will be holding their first full-day gender-sexuality alliance conference later this year to help all students feel accepted. TELUS surprised the school with a $1,500 donation to honor their incredible work and help further their fundraising initiatives!


Johnny and Christian Ciocca, Bonita Springs, FL

When their family moved from New Jersey to Florida, Johnny Ciocca noticed that his brother, Christian, who has Down syndrome, was having trouble making friends. Wanting to support his big bro, Johnny developed an app called youBelong, which helps people facing similar challenges find friends, communicate with others and connect on a safe, virtual platform. After Johnny and Christian shared their story live on WE Day Connect, Microsoft agreed to pay for five exam fees so that Johnny can further his computer science and technology skills. They also surprised the brothers with a $2,500 donation to Bringing Up Down Syndrome, a charity the boys hold dear.

Quote. I'm glad that I've been able to use my skills to make a difference. Unquote. Johnny Ciocca.


The Regis School, West Sussex, UK

Entrepreneur, author and creator Connor Franta sent a special recorded message to the UK school whose WE group, called the Rights Respecting Ambassadors, walked 15 miles along the southern coast of England as part of their WE Walk for Water campaign. They were able to raise enough money to provide 60 people in WE Villages partner communities with access to clean water!


Kisaruni All Girls Secondary School, Maasai Mara, Kenya

The girls at this WE Villages partner school in Kenya are passionate about improving their communities! They’ve been learning proper hygiene practices in the health club, celebrating diversity and discovering their backgrounds in the culture club, and developing skills to bring food security to their home communities in the garden club.

Quote. Our actions have the potential to change lives around the globe. So let's work together to create the world we want to see! Unquote. Joan, Kisaruni Secondary School student.


The grand finale

As Seattle-based hip-hop artist SOL closed out the show with a world premiere of his new song, “The Kids,” host Khiry Johnson expressed his awe at today’s youth.

Quote. My jaw dropped, my heart was just...it was a lot! It was amazing. It was so amazing to hear from all the incredible WE Schools and seeing how their hard work is truly making an impact, both locally and globally. Unquote. Khiry Johnson


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