Students participate in National We Day

Some 16,000 students, including those from 354 Ottawa schools packed the Canadian Tire Centre to the rafters Wednesday for the second annual National We Day.

The day, which features guest speakers like Queen Noor of Jordan, Martin Luther King III, Ottawa Senators captain Jason Spezza and entertainment like Simple Plan is an initiative of Free the Children and aims to empower youth to make a difference in their communities.

We Day is a celebration for these kids, who have earned their ticket through community service. Some raised money for students in developing countries, while others collected canned goods for local food banks or took part in anti-bullying campaigns.

"What I want you to focus on today is what is your dream?" Luther King asked students during his presentation Wednesday. "What are you going to do to make the world in which we all must live a little better than it was after you move on many, many years from now?"

Eleven-year-old blogger and youth speaker Hannah Alper, who is front Toronto, said these students have the power to make a difference.

"Really you're going to feel the power of We, because everyone there, all the youth, they're hungry for change," she said.

Free the Children co-founder Craig Kielburger said the initiative empowers children to make a change in their community.

"I think that this generation grew up in the shadow of 9/11, has a cynism on a lot of issues, but also an idealism," said Kielburger. "I think for this generation, they're looking for meaning and purpose and I think that this generation has a greater awareness than ever before."

Students told CFRA they felt like We Day made a lasting impact on them and that they plan to continue giving back in the future.

The We Day initiative has been running for years, but this is only the second time the day has been held in the National Capital Region. Last year around 4,000 students attended the day at the Robert Guertin Arena in Hull.

According to statistics, 80 per cent of We Day almuni give back to their community as adults and 79 per cent of them who were above the age of 18 voted during the last federal election.

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