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We Day: FW students focus on social change, adopt village in Sierra Leone
As the inaugural We Day U.S. approaches on March 27 in Seattle, Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) staff and students have been busy doing local and global community service projects.
Sponsored by the charity Free the Children, We Day's message centers on philanthropy and social change. Since 2007, teens have filled stadiums across Canada for We Day, which has featured celebrities such as NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal, Virgin CEO Richard Branson, and pop singer Justin Bieber.
At the Seattle event, one of the keynote speakers will be former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev. Students earn their way into We Day through service projects.
Shawn Simpson, one of four district staff members for Federal Way's "We Team," was joined by Decatur senior Jordan Crahan and Todd Beamer senior Kristina Kim at the Feb. 26 school board meeting. They gave an update on the numerous projects students have been involved with since the We Day event was announced last October.
"Just a few hours ago this afternoon, I got confirmation from Free the Children. We have 12 schools, plus two clubs, that have already secured 30 tickets per each of those schools and clubs, which is very exciting, for a total of 420 tickets," Simpson said. "We have five schools that are still in the process about getting that confirmation, so we're very excited about that."
Simpson said she's happy the district took on the We Day project because of what Free the Children does for adults and students across the world, helping them get out of poverty and gain access to higher-quality living and education.
Federal Way students get busy
Kim and Crahan reviewed a number of projects by students at all levels in Federal Way schools in the run-up to the We Day event.
"In these past months, we've had We Act Mentor and We Act Student Ambassador workshops," Kim said. "We finally set up our district action campaign in adopting a village in Sierra Leone, and also collaborated with a guest speaker from Free the Children to inspire students in the district, to inspire teachers, to inspire, really, everyone, to go make a positive change in the community."
Kim also noted that FWPS students will participate in the We Day event itself with 200 students slated to be "cheerleaders" for the event at Key Arena. Along with that, a number of students will be granted "VIP" access to the event to get a feel for the behind-the-scenes things that need to happen to make something like We Day possible.
Crahan elaborated further on the Sierra Leone village project, saying there are five main pillars the district will focus on in the coming years to create a sustainable community. The pillars are:
• Education, which they address through the construction of schools and funding of teachers' salaries.
• Health, in terms of medicine kits.
• Clean water and sanitation, which is the number one cause of disease and a lot of preventable deaths.
• Alternative income and livelihood, which leads to a more sustainable local economy, development of jobs and industries.
• Agriculture and food security.
"It's all about developing things because the more advanced they are, the more opportunities they have, the more resources they have at their disposal to make sure everything is going well," Crahan said.
Crahan noted that part of the awareness that is raised with this project is that not everything will be done instantly. This is a project his class will hand off to the next group of students.
"It's really a multi-year process," Crahan said. "It's not a one and done, it's not an 'OK, here's a bunch of money, we hope everything gets better.' It's a 'We're gonna grow alongside of you and make sure that you're going to be OK."
Kim reviewed the actions taken at various schools throughout the district, including Nautilus, Lakota, Sacajawea, and Saghalie. At each of those schools, students came together and raised money or performed some other kind of drive, such as a clothing drive.
The various academies throughout the district have also participated in these projects, including the Internet Academy setting a goal to collect 50,000 pennies, a goal which they're halfway toward reaching.
The high schools have also been active, staging food drives and other similar projects in the last several months, Kim said.
School board members Claire Wilson and Danny Peterson were impressed with what's been accomplished in such a short time.
"Wow. I'm so excited. I'm so excited," Wilson said. "Seeing where you are today, as a group of students, is absolutely amazing."
"I see that snowball, and it's just getting bigger and bigger and that momentum is gaining, and I'm excited for the traditions that are going to get started in this district," Peterson said. "It's exciting to see the change happening, not only locally, but globally, and I'm thrilled for what's coming up for this event."
The We Day event will take place at Key Arena in Seattle on March 27, with the doors opening at 8 a.m. One of the keynote speakers will be former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev. To learn more, visit www.weday.com.