More than 150 Los Altos School District student leaders joined 16,000 Bay Area students to celebrate their accomplishments in service learning March 26.
The students participated in We Day, an initiative of Free The Children, an international nonprofit with which district students partner for many of their community service projects.
To gain admission to the full-day event, held at Oracle Arena in Oakland, students were required to complete at least two service learning projects, one local and one global.
We Day is designed to empower and inspire youth to take action and effect change. Several well-known celebrities – Magic Johnson, Martin Sheen, Martin Luther King III, Orlando Bloom, Selena Gomez and Seth Rogen – delivered powerful messages to encourage attendees to take charge and make positive changes in the world.
Gomez discussed the pressures young people face today, while Rogen urged the attendees to focus on their individual passions and talents, according to Alyssa Gallagher, the district’s director of strategic initiatives and community partnerships, who attended the event with students.
Other motivational speakers included Spencer West and Clemantine Wamariya, both of whom shared stories of challenges they have overcome, Gallagher added. West, who has no legs, climbed to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. He encouraged students to remove “can’t” and “won’t” from their vocabularies, focusing instead on “how.” Wamariya, a survivor of genocide, reminded students of their power and ability to raise others’ spirits, especially those in need.
“Not only are we proud to have had district student leaders involved in this event, we are more excited about the ways in which our students are getting involved to make a difference in the world,” Gallagher said.
Los Altos School District students engaged in a variety of service projects, qualifying them for the opportunity to attend We Day. The projects included:
• Participating in the “We Scare Hunger” campaign during the Halloween season, for which students collected and donated food to local food banks.
• Collecting and donating new pajamas and toys to the Community Service Agency.
• Launching a coin drive for Typhoon Haiyan relief that raised more than $3,000.
• Participating in the “We Are Love” campaign to raise money for a village in India.
• Raising money to enlarge and renovate two buildings into birthing centers in Nepal.
• Participating in the Water Project by raising $1,000 or more to build a well.
“What is really exciting about the district’s involvement in these projects is the passion and dedication demonstrated by our students,” Gallagher said. “Most, if not all, of these projects were selected and championed by our students.”
Blach Intermediate School Principal Sandra McGonagle, who traveled to We Day with 18 of her students, said it was a privilege to attend the event.
“They were all amazed and inspired, for sure,” McGonagle said of her students. “We held a follow-up meeting afterward to share our favorite speakers and messages. It was quite varied, but all agreed that the day was powerful.”
McGonagle said the We Day experience spurred discussion of upcoming projects and added that students were interested in hosting their own version of We Day in the fall to inspire fellow students to help others.
This year, she noted, students are developing a plan for a “Help a Cause” Spirit Week, encouraging the school community to share about the organizations or causes that students, parents and staff are passionate about.
“I think the value (of We Day) came from both the crowd – passionate young people interested in making a difference – and the amazing array of speakers,” McGonagle said. “It was the perfect combo for inspiration.”
For more information, visit weday.com.