NEW ULM - Where can you find Martin Luther King III, Mia Farrow, the Jonas Brothers, Barbara Pierce Bush, and Queen Noor of Jordan on the same stage? Only at We Day Minnesota 2013! On Oct. 8, 50 students from New Ulm High School (NUHS) had the opportunity to attend this event, which brought 18,000 Minnesota youth together at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
We Day began with 12-year-old Canadian Craig Kielburger in 1995. He and a group of classmates founded the organization Free the Children after hearing about the death of Pakistani child-labor activist Iqbal Masih. In 2007, Kielburger and his brother Marc began We Day with the belief that "young people can create change," according to weday.com.
Martin Luther King III spoke first at this year's event, discussing his father's legacy and his hope for freedom. The speaker told the students that they were going to be a great generation, calling the room "the most powerful room in the world." The day followed the theme of freedom and gave students the tools to stand up for the freedom of education, freedom from bullying, freedom for children, and various others.
NUHS students outside of the Xcel Center.
"We Day was a life-changing event," says freshman Sicily Trullinger. "I will never forget it. It was so inspirational and it touched me in so many ways."
Many of the students agree with Trullinger, saying that the day changed their outlook on life. Sophomore Madison Sunderman says, "We Day was one of the most inspiring events I have been to. The speakers were very motivational and inspiring. They inspired me to get out and help the community."
Speakers like Spencer West, a double amputee who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro on his hands, and Molly Burke, who is visually impaired and was bullied in school, impacted the students. "They were strong with everything they went through," junior Hannah Nelsen says of West and Burke.
Students were told they could make a difference, no matter their age. Sophomore Jennifer Reiniger says she "learned that age doesn't determine ability." Junior Gracelyn Sarkar agrees, saying, "we aren't too young to make this world a better place, and no one can tell us that we can't achieve our dreams."
Since its inception, We Day has prompted hundreds of thousands of young people in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain to take action through a program titled We Act. Students had to commit to one local and one global action project to earn their ticket to We Day. NUHS students have chosen recycling and child labor as their projects. We Day speaker Maggie Aldrich visited with select students from NUHS following a presentation she gave at the school on Oct. 14. She advised these students on how to plan an event for their cause and how much work was needed to be successful.
NUHS students planned a "We Scare Hunger" campaign this Halloween. Instead of trick-or-treating for candy this year, students collected healthy, non-perishable food items for the food shelf. Students also collected during the school day and in total received 265 pounds of donations. Students additionally sold fair trade, child-labor free chocolate to raise awareness about child labor. The profit will be used to adopt a village in Haiti.
For more information on We Day, visit minnesota.cbslocal.com/category/we-day/.