While sitting in a classroom, doing homework and listening to a teacher lecture are things most students find themselves doing on a Friday morning, on September 20, thousands of youth were spending their time differently—at Free the Children’s annual We Day in Toronto.
The Air Canada Centre was packed with 20, 000 students and educators from over 950 schools in the area. Joining them was a star-studded lineup of performers and guest speakers including The Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, Austin Mahone and Imagine Dragons. Glee star Darren Criss took over the stage as a co-host along with Canadian TV personalities Aliya-Jasmine Sovani and Scott Willats.
The daylong event didn’t just offer up motivational speeches from people like Martin Luther King III, who exemplified the importance of education or Molly Burke, who spoke out against bullying, but it also kicked off the Year of Education; every year, We Day jumpstarts a year-long fundraising commitment, launched by Free the Children co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger. This year’s goal is to build 200 new schools in Free the Children’s overseas communities. With different campaigns, including a coin drive, cross-Canada road tour, online celebrity challenge and ABC Education Rafiki Friend Chains, the goal to raise $10, 000 to build one new school or school room in a developing country can easily be met with the help of donations.
It wasn’t just the kids in attendance who were inspired; Darren Criss also walked away from the event with the desire to do good.
“It’s somewhere in between completely inspiring and completely frustrating because I’m like, man these kids and these people are doing so much. I am so lazy and I need to get off my butt and do more with my life. But it’s absolutely more inspiring than anything else,” he says. “It’s cool when you see this very concrete example of youth empowerment and people doing things that you hear about, but you see it in real life and you can’t help but be invigorated by this idea that we really can make a difference.”
For Demi, her involvement with Free the Children has made a great impact on her life, as she has “started a new chapter.”
“When I went to Kenya with Free The Children, I did a lot of work with them, and it changed my entire perspective on life and what I want out of it,” she said. “I’m here today not only to thank Free The Children for everything that they’ve done, but also, We Day in particular is such an incredible event because everyone in the audience has done good for their community and that’s inspiring.”
Whether you’re a 10-year-old elementary school student or an award-winning singer and actress, We Day made it clear that everyone can make a lasting change in the world.
And while you couldn’t buy a ticket to We Day to watch the action live (you had to earn your seat through service), you can catch the event broadcast on MTV and Much November 11.
Check out our We Day gallery for more photos from the event and red carpet.