Young Changemakers Among Us

We Day_Main ImageBy Shelly Jones, Middle School Dean of Students and Language Arts/Social Studies

“I am a changemaker.”

“I am the leader of today.”

“I can make a difference.”

A crowd of 3,000 students from across Kentucky, including the St. Francis Middle School and High School We Act group members, said these words together on Tuesday morning at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. The occasion? WE Day Kentucky 2017.

St. Francis students have attended this event (with initially a much, much smaller group of students) since its inception five years ago at the first WE Day Kentucky at the Muhammad Ali Center. St. Francis School’s Mission Statement talks about the compassionate community we strive to create. In keeping with this, all of our students are called to be their most compassionate selves and to think of ways to use their gifts to improve their communities and the lives of others. We have a strong commitment to service learning and community service on both campuses of our school. Thus, when the WE Schools movement came to Louisville, we thought it made sense to join the world’s largest network of kids helping kids. Schools and students can’t buy tickets to WE Day; they earn them through global and local acts of service. This year was particularly special for our students, as the St. Francis School High School and Middle School We Act Clubs were recognized for working together and raising $10,000 to build a school in Haiti with the “Brick By Brick” program through WE Schools. The High School students had to leave to attend their Advisee Games, but our Middle School students had a ball going backstage and then taking the stage to see a video feature about our school’s project and to give a “Thank you, WE Day!” shout out to the audience. Click here for a video that features student interviews and footage of the types of things our students did to raise the money over the last few years, such as cookouts on the Downtown Campus and hot chocolate sales on the Goshen Campus. A series of Parents’ Night Out events for Lower School students and the My School Color Run were also huge fundraisers that contributed towards reaching the $10,000 goal.  Many of you participated in these events, and we thank you!

Along with receiving a bit of recognition, our students heard inspiring words from Rasheeda Ali, Muhammad Ali’s daughter. She reminded the students of her father’s words: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” Ken Lolla, the men’s soccer coach at the University of Louisville, shared about his work inspiring his players to give back to the children in our community. We also heard from Craig Kielburger, the Co-Founder of WE and Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award Recipient. (The students and I even “geeked out” when we were able to have our photo taken with Craig, who created Free the Children when he was in 7th grade!) Musical guests also entertained and inspired with uplifting songs and words of encouragement. Performances by Jordan Smith, Ben Sollee, Justin Paul-Lewis, Teddy Abrams, and Harry Pickens were particular favorites. One of our 7th graders, Bruce Hanserd, was asked by Dr. Tori Murden McClure, President of Spalding University, to help her during her speech. Bruce held a visual aid, a replica of the boat she rowed to become the first American and the first woman to row across the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, Bruce gained a fair amount of recognition when we participated in the final event of the day, the March for Compassion around downtown Louisville. Students from other schools were chanting “Bruce! Bruce! Bruce! Bruce!” as we marched.

While the content students learn in their classrooms is very important, the special, out-of-the-ordinary experiences outside of the classroom sometimes create the most lasting memories and plant seeds of possibility in students’ minds. At WE Day Kentucky, our students felt inspired, recognized, and encouraged to keep giving back to their global and local communities. It was a good day!