Palliser embraces We Day

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 Teacher Mike Gibson, from left to right, and students Carmen Nadeau, Hanna Janssens, and Jess Shipton.

COALDALE  – If inspiration is infectious, Jess Shipton might best be quarantined.

Instead, the ever-chipper Kate Andrews High School (KAHS) student will be surrounded by thousands of like-minded youth and teachers at Tuesday’s We Day celebration in Calgary.

The event brings world-renowned speakers and performers together with students who have embraced the shift from “me to we” in an effort to turn their inspiration into sustained action.

Shipton was able to experience We Day for the first time last year and is pumped to be taking part again.

“I think one of my favourite things about We Day is to see other people get excited about the same things we get excited about,” says the Grade 11 student, who is also on the planning committee for Palliser’s Student Leadership conference Nov. 20.

Tickets for We Day can’t be purchased. They must be earned by each participating school by completing a local and global action relating to any social justice issue they choose. Kate Andrews earned more than 40 tickets and as a result will take some Grade 9 students to We Day for the first time.

Shipton was thrilled to learn that and spoke to the younger students about what to expect.

“My brother is one of those Grade 9s and for me to see all those Grade 9s get excited about all this stuff, I think that would be awesome,” she says. “I want to see that because they are the future generations coming up at this school and once we get their spark going, we got it. . . “

Shipton was elated when invited to get up on stage this year as part of a special segment called “What is your Spark?” There she’ll join Spencer West, a motivational speaker who summited Mount Kilimanjaro despite losing both legs as a child.

When it comes to what motivates her she drew inspiration from a recent trip to Haiti – the birthplace of a little boy her family is adopting ­– and the opportunity to see true poverty first-hand.


“Someday poverty will be something that we only study in history textbooks,” recited Shipton of the line she’ll share at We Day. “Which I totally believe, because that would be cool to see poverty completely gone someday.”

A number of other Palliser Regional Schools will also be sending students to the conference, which shifts the focus from the individual to the power of community.

Among those is Brant Christian School, which earned 10 tickets for helping build a home in Tijuana, Mexico, and Dorothy Dalgliesh School with 19 students attending. The Picture Butte elementary school raised money last year to empower women in Kenya.  Carmangay Outreach will be taking 15 students. The program, which serves Low-German speaking Mennonite students, will focus local efforts on the food bank and pediatric ward at the hospital. Arrowwood School is sending  a contingent of 17.

Last year KAHS raised money to build a school in Nicaragua. This past summer Carmen Nadeau and fellow Grade 12 Keleeja Peters travelled to Central America to help build it. Nadeau says it was a real benefit to see first-hand the type of impact such a project can make.

“Not a lot of them had a lot, but they were so happy with what they had and were so thankful for everything,” she says, adding the experience has changed her outlook. “Like education. We’re lucky enough to have it but sometimes you don’t realize that. For them, not everyone gets to go to school.”

Hanna Janssens will be attending her first We Day and the Grade 10 Kate Andrews student is looking forward to a little inspiration from the many presenters.

“I just remember ever since I was little I’ve loved helping others so when I found out about We Schools, I just wanted to be involved, to help others,” she says.

We Schools is a program that challenges young people to identify the local and global issues that spark their passion and then empowers them with the tools to take action.

The We Schools program provides educators and students with resources to help them gain an understanding of the root causes of pressing issues like hunger, poverty and lack of education, and explore what they can do to help.

Kate Andrews teacher Mike Gibson says the We Schools message certainly ties in with curriculum, especially Grade 10 Social Studies, which asks students what kind of global citizen they want to be.

“I hope more than just getting a spark from We Day, the kids realize social activism is a very, very important part of our world today,” he says. “There are a lot of people who are so less fortunate and I try to teach them, it doesn’t take very much to give back.”

This year Kate Andrews is looking to raise $5,000 towards Adopt a Village projects which fall under the categories of health, water, education, alternative income and livelihood, and agriculture and food security.

For more information on We Day go to