Lake City Secondary Columneetza Campus’ Be the Change Club had an amazing time last week at WE Day Vancouver.
Mike Wilson, a Grade 7 teacher at Columneetza, first founded the club five years ago as a way to bring positivity to the school and larger community. At the time, shortly after the most recent teacher strike in B.C., there was “a lot of negativity floating around” and Wilson wanted to do his part to combat it.
“We’re all about doing good in the community, whether it’s making the purple snowflakes and putting positive messages on them in the school or food drives in the community,” Wilson said. “It’s all about giving back to our community, service learning and making a positive impact in the world around us and helping kids see that they can make a big difference in the world around them, even with small little acts.”
The response by the students to the club, Wilson said, has been amazing growing every single year since he introduced it. Currently, over 50 students give up their lunchtime, twice a week, to take part in club activities, up from the 10 he started with five years ago.
Read More: Students inspired by We Day Vancouver
These include a couple of things like selling Rafiki bracelets for WE Are Rafikis at $10 apiece, with $5 going towards the women in Kenya who hand make them while the other $5 goes towards the pillar they support through WE Charity. For them, it goes towards education in Ecuador, with a ME to WE trip planned to the country for Spring Break.
“Everything gets bigger every year, we run out of room and we have kids sitting on desks, on the floor, it’s bursting at the seams, which is an awesome problem to have,” Wilson said.
WE Day itself is an annual event that happens across Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. Teens and children gather by the thousands in places like Rogers Arena in Vancouver for a day of music, the sharing of impactful stories and the promotion of charitable work they can do in their community.
Tickets cannot be bought for WE Day and instead are issued to each school at random.
To earn their way, Wilson said students had to do a minimum of one global action and one local action.
This year was special, however, as Wilson received 36 floor-seat tickets for the event, putting them in the heart of the action, right beside the stage.
“We got a spotlight while we were down there, they mentioned me and some of the stuff we’ve been doing with our club and it’s kind of cool to get a big cheer from 20,000 people,” Wilson said. “We’re way up here in the north and they recognize we’re doing some pretty cool things, it meant a lot to the kids.”
Some of the Grade Seven students who went on the trip were happy to share their experiences and favourite moments from the day.
Addyson Cullum describes WE Day as listening to people tell their different stories about bullying, discrimination and other challenges they went through and the pain those moments caused. This raw honesty about their experiences and how they then overcame these challenges was inspiring for Cullum and many of the other pre-teens and teens in attendance.
This inspiration Cullum and others felt are why Nya Chutskoff felt it was so important for her club to go.
“Starting different changes around our school and our city, we can bring it to the High School, we can bring it to the Elementary Schools. We can make so many different changes in the world for the good and help people in so many different ways,” Chutskoff said.
She feels that the information provided at WE Day helped open her and other’s eyes to some of the issues the world faces, but more importantly, gave them a way to help address them.
For her, the inspiring nature of the shared stories was the true highlight of the event.
The energy at the event was crazy, according to Kalli Campbell, as well as being “explosive and insane.”
Read More: Teacher encourages students to Be the Change
“Everybody was just so excited they were having so much fun dancing and jumping and they were just so pumped to be there,” Campbell said. “It was really inspiring to me.
Not just any kid involved with the club could go to WE Day, however, as Edyn Halfnights explained they had to earn their spot. Halfnights and the others did this by taking part in club activities like making “middle school survival kits” for their teachers, making purple snowflakes to honour Amanda Todd, a bullied girl who gained international attention after posting her suicide note via video prior to her death.
“We did just a bunch of stuff and the more we did the more points you earned. I really wanted to go see and hear the inspirations of everyone there,” Halfnights said, adding she particularly enjoyed hearing Margaret and Sophie Trudeau speak about the power of loving themselves.
Not all the trip was spent at WE Day, however, as Karter Kobasiuk explained. The day before, he and his fellow club members went to Science World British Colombia and went to see an IMAX movie about “what is happening to our planet.”
“Then we got to go to FlyOver Canada which was amazing, it was just amazing, Kobasiuk said enthusiastically. “Japadogs, oh my gosh yes. Japadogs are a doughnut bun and there is ice cream inside and you eat it and it’s so good, oh my gosh.”
Kobasiiuk was also one of four kids invited on stage for a dance-off where he showed off his awesome breakdancing moves.
The entire club, including Braedi Hamar, would love to see more people join Be the Change at Columneetza year round. This year they’ve already done a food drive where they raised 1,086 food items and $1,200 for the community, which Hamar said “is very cool.”