Pictured from the left are students Mackenna Watson (back to camera)

Pictured from the left are students Mackenna Watson (back to camera)

Teacher encourages students to Be the Change

Practicing positive action earned a local middle school club provincial recognition and coveted front row seats to We Day in November.

Practicing positive action earned a local middle school club provincial recognition and coveted front row seats to We Day in November.

“It’s probably the best thing I’ve done in all my years of teaching,” Columneetza Grade 7 teacher Mike Wilson told School Board 27 trustees recently of creating the Be the Change Club.

“It’s been a really awesome experience.”

Wilson said he got the idea for the club after the bitter labour dispute between teachers and the government in 2014.

“I wanted to give back and create something positive in the school,” he said.

Wilson said the club started with just 10 students getting together weekly to come up with ideas for good deeds in the school, but in two short years the Be the Change Club has grown to more than 40 members and has seen many positive actions benefitting not just the school population, but also the greater community and the globe, with initiatives such as learning about the global water issues and raising funds to provide clean water in Africa. Club members also signed commitments to take no more than five-minute showers to assist in water conservation and brought garbage-free lunches to school.

The students also made survival kits to give out to all the teachers at the beginning of the year and trick or treated for food donations as part of their We Scare Hunger project on Halloween night for the local food bank. That initiative saw 1,321 items collected for the food bank.

In their school, the club also ran their Light up the World Purple campaign in which members attached positive words on students’ lockers in support of the Amanda Todd Foundation and World Mental Health Day.

If that wasn’t enough, 49 students wrapped up the year by travelling to Deni House where they played piano, fiddles and sang Christmas carols for the residents there.

“It’s all about giving back,” Wilson said.

The club was rewarded for all their efforts with a special trip in November to We Day, an international movement which celebrates youth making a difference in their local and global communities.

At the 2016 We Day Vancouver, the Be the Change club was especially invited to attend an Evening of Inspiration and Wilson was also asked to give a speech before 20,000 in attendance at Rogers Arena.

“It was terrifying, but a great experience,” he said.

Grade 7 students Natasha Castro and Denza Phung said attending We Day and being apart of the club that encourages positive change has literally changed their own lives.

“It has changed me,” said Castro, who first joined the club to make new friends. “We Day was really inspirational. I learned a lot from the speakers.”

Phung echoed those sentiments about We Day.

“It made me feel like I could do anything.”

To begin 2017, the club has two projects planned for the first couple of months. One is called We Are Silent. It is a 24-hour vow of silence to raise awareness for an issue that each student is passionate about, such as child labour, animal abuse or global warming. Club members will make signs with photos and facts about their chosen topics that they will then wear throughout the day at school. Each student will have a white board and marker so they can communicate with their teachers and fellow students in class. Students will also have the opportunity to raise money through pledges for each hour that they are silent. Some students will go the full 24 hours and some will go silent throughout the school day.

Wilson himself will teach the day without speaking, something he also did last year.

The club’s other project will be We Bake for Change. Members will be holding bake sales at Columneetza to raise funds for their chosen We Villages Pillar – Education in Kenya.

Wilson said he is amazed at how the club has evolved and encourages anyone with project ideas to contact him at michael.wilson@sd27.bc.ca.

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