Kate Andrews students make a difference

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Members of the We Create Change group with their cheque.

COALDALE – For the second time in four years, students at Kate Andrews High School have raised enough funds to build a school for those in need elsewhere around the globe.

Jessie Irwin is understandably proud of what the We Create Change group has accomplished, but the fact those children in Ecuador are living without such basic necessities isn’t lost on the Grade 10 student.

“It teaches you not to take things for granted and that you should be happy for what you have,” says Irwin of the We movement, which shifts the focus from “me” to “we” and shows youth they can make a difference.

Students are encouraged to take on a local and global cause and are rewarded with invitations to We Day celebrations in their area. Kate Andrews earned more than two dozen invites to the Calgary event this past fall, and Alyssa Brown says it’s an unforgettable experience.

“You listen to those speakers and it’s really inspirational,” says the Grade 11 student, who has attended two We Day celebrations. “It really gets you motivated and sometimes you get ideas from hearing what other people are doing. It really makes you want to do some great things in your community and around the world.”

The We Create Change group at KAHS was started in 2012 by teacher Mike Gibson and the students have raised more than $35,000 since then.

Jaya Pothegadoo had been involved in the We movement in her previous schools and didn’t hesitate to join the group this year, her first at Kate Andrews.

“You’re just doing good and it’s not that hard to participate, so why not?” says the Grade 11 student.

Shelby-Lee Stanko really wasn’t familiar with the group and decided to join this year out of curiosity.

“It’s just about a small community and small schools helping other people across the world and doing all they can to help them and benefit them,” the Grade 10 students say of what she’s learned since.

She quickly enlisted the help of her brother Skylar Stanko.  While he was impressed by the stories he heard at the last We Day celebration about school builds, the Grade 10 student believes the school group also results in positive changes closer to home.

He says it has made him think more about others, and recalls a recent opportunity he had to provide a hungry stranger with something to eat.

“It was a good feeling that you helped someone. It’s something I want to continue,” says Skylar.

Alyssa Brown has attended two We Day celebrations in Calgary and says her ongoing involvement has reaffirmed her chosen career path. The Grade 11 student plans on attending Bible college to get her bachelor of arts in intercultural studies.

“So this is the exact thing I want to do. In the future I would really love to work for the group We Create Change and work in other countries, so this is right up my alley,” she says.

Tickets for We Day cannot be purchased; they have to be earned. Schools must tackle both a local and global cause with their success determining how many tickets they receive. This past year Kate Andrews sent 27 students to the celebration and Gibson says attendance there usually provides their program with a jump start.

“A lot of times your movers and shakers and your leaders are the ones that have been there, and they feel a huge vested interest in giving back,” he says.

Gibson spoke with organizers and learned the school is in “rarified air” in Canada when it comes to raising enough money to build two schools within such a short span. This year’s effort was especially significant, he says, given the state of the economy and the fact their campaign didn’t enjoy the momentum of novelty like it did the first time.

“It’s the staff, it’s the students, it’s the community. You don’t get to $10,000 just by selling lunches on Wednesdays,” says Gibson, adding the school also raised money for several local charities including the food bank.