On March 1, 2017, City Year and 15,000 other youth from all over Illinois gathered together to celebrate the service work they performed for their community. Shay Mitchell, from Pretty Little Liars and host of WE Day, got the party started by introducing Jordan Smith from The Voice. This was only the beginning as celebrities, motivational speakers and local representatives kept filling the stage, expressing their love for service, positive change and how we can keep this movement of service going beyond this day of celebration.
WE Day is special to all who attend because a ticket cannot be bought! Students have to earn their ticket by performing acts of service in their community. Each City Year school had different requirements to receive this ticket. My school, Stagg School of Excellence, chose to do a service project that involved spreading love and kindness throughout our school. Each student made a variety of love and kindness notes, with a treat attached, and handed them out to students before school on Valentine's Day. We also are planning a service project to make blankets out of t-shirts for homeless people. As you can see, the service work of Stagg students is never done.
There were an abundance of speakers and performers but some of the most notable speeches came from Buzz Aldrin, Laroyce Hawkins, Mpumi Nobiva, Tom Wilson, Jahkil Jackson, Xzibit, Dante Brown, Arne Duncan, Stedman Graham and Spencer West. Mpumi Nobiva spoke on her personal life, on how she lost her mother to the AIDS at a young age and how she overcame obstacles living in South Africa. Tom Wilson, CEO of Allstate, spoke on achieving his goals and working his way up to be successful. Lastly, Jahkil Jackson is an 9-year-old founder of Project I Am. Started in early 2016, Jahkil wanted to find a way to help Chicago's homeless population. He created "blessing bags," which are filled with necessities such as wipes, granola bars, toothbrush, water and other items. As of now, he has donated over 1,600 bags and hopes to reach 5,000 by the end of 2017.
Buzz Aldrin, The second man to walk the Moon was one of several speakers that inspired our students during WE Day, 2017.
WE Day is an inspiration to all of us as we are in a time where positivity, leadership and change is needed. WE Day is a movement with no boundaries. One can start a project of their own, like Jahkil, or join an organization already making a difference in the community. WE Day also inspired us by hearing stories from different speakers that we can overcome any obstacles thrown in our way. In conclusion, I hope to continue to see “WE Day” spread its powerful message to more youth across the world. It all starts with "WE!"
Lea Henry serves as an AmeriCorps member on the McCormick Foundation team at the Stagg School of Excellence. Read more about Leah's service as well as other Red Jacket Reporters on the City Year Chicago Blog.