BAY ROBERTS, NL — Several students from Ascension Collegiate got the chance to travel to New York recently to take part in a volunteer conference pertaining to WE Day.
WE Day, an annual event held in celebration of volunteers, encourages students from across the world to take part in volunteer projects in their communities. With a different base of operations each year, the event was held in New York City in 2017, in Madison Square Garden.
The annual event hosts several guest speakers, including social activists and musical performers, who advocate for volunteerism and positive messages, looking to inspire both adults and students to make changes in their homes by taking part in the community and volunteering wherever they can.
Four of the 10 participating students – Anna Mercer, Julianna Clarke, Kailee Clarke, and Jenna Lee Ralph – spoke with the Compass about their four-day stint in the state, which they all agreed was a very positive experience.
“It’s a lot about leadership, and inspiring youth to make a change in the world by speaking up, and doing what they think is right,” said Julianna. “There’s a lot of speakers there, and they’re all there to empower you, and encourage you to really try and make a difference – do the best you can in your community to make positive changes.
“Things like keeping the environment, and your future in general, healthy and positive, for yourself and everyone else,” she said.
All four girls are active volunteers in their areas. Alongside their involvement at Ascension Collegiate, they explained to the Compass they are all involved in things like local churches, crime prevention, dance groups, local food banks, and sports programs such as volleyball and softball during their spare time.
Besides the WE Day event, which took up an entire day of the trip, the students got to visit several places in New York, such as a 9/11 memorial, John Lennon memorial, and the Statue of Liberty, as well as an opportunity to see “Come From Away,” a Newfoundland-based musical centered on Newfoundland’s involvement in the 9/11 tragedy of 2001.
However, WE Day is something all the girls said was an event they’ll always carry with them, noting several speakers who resonated with them, inspiring them to bring their experiences home to apply to their volunteer work in the community.
“There were a couple speakers there that spoke about feminism, and one that really got to me was this one woman who spoke about how she promoted feminism in her home in Africa, where girls are sometimes discouraged from going to school,” said Kailee. “We were discussing the possibility of raising some money here to encourage girls in Africa and other third world countries, and giving them access to education.
“It really helped us think about what we can do here in Newfoundland.”
Mercer was also impressed with the speakers.
“Just hearing them all speak, it really makes you think about all the things that are going on in the world,” she said. “It makes you think about how, even though something may not be happening here, you can still work toward making a difference elsewhere in the world, like what Kailee said, helping girls in Africa get their education.”
One speaker who made an impact on the four was Marley Dias, who strived to find books with a specific protagonist – black females. This was something Dias explained was a rarity among so many pieces of literature that focus on white male characters.
“It’s things like that that really inspire you to be a better you,” said Mercer. “Do what you can to make positive changes, and make this a ‘we generation,’ rather than a ‘me.’”
“Basically, they’re there to inspire leaders for tomorrow,” explained Ralph. “It gives us tools to use to do so, and I’m sure it’ll really help all of us in the long run.”