The willingness of youth to take action and make a difference is often underestimated, and the School District 83 Me to We committee is a shining example of youth stepping up to do good things.
This student-led committee works within the students’ communities and extends their reach across the globe to help those in need. The committee is made up of students from across the district who collectively work to plan, fund and execute charitable projects.
Some of these projects include the annual Toonie Tuesday fundraiser, which has raised more than $130,000 to date in support of charitable projects. The students have also travelled internationally to help with the hard work of building the schools they fund.
When asked why they were interested in the committee, and what inspired them to stick with it, their answers touch on common themes.
“When I was in Grade 1, our school did a fundraiser through Me to We for Sierra Leone. That was my first exposure to some of these global issues, and I became very passionately involved with it and it is just something that has carried itself with me through school,” says Maddison Coombs.
“When I was younger I found leadership groups only did things locally, and I thought I could make an impact more globally so that’s why I thought I wanted to join the committee,” adds Keeya Corbett.
Another common theme around the table was a willingness to pay it forward with their good deeds, in hopes of inspiring others.
“It’s very important to realize, eventually we’re going to be the adults. Give or take 20 years, we are going to be the people back in this community and if we don’t give back nobody will,” begins Rhys Middleton. “We can inspire others as well to make a better society.”
“Also, learning how to do things without having to be rewarded for them, just doing it out of the kindness of your heart and being selfless, and not always needing gratification,” adds Fiona Young.
At the WE Day celebrations in Vancouver this year, The district Me to We Committee was selected to receive the Get Doing award for their volunteer efforts.
The award is given to students who go above and beyond with their hands-on volunteer efforts. While normally awarded to one student, principal Wendy Woodhurst worked to allow them to receive the award as a group.
WE Day that brings together speakers, activists, philanthropists and students to celebrate a commitment to giving back. They were recognized by Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart in front of thousands of spectators for their work, and the speakers at the event seem to have left an impression.
“Some of them may not seem as close to the heart, but every once in a while there is one that is so powerful and really meaningful it feels like they are speaking directly to you. It was very nice,” Young says.
“I think with WE day you get to see kids who are doing great jobs but you also get to see adults who prove that just because you are out of high school doesn’t mean you can’t continue doing these things,” adds Corbett.
Particularly of note for sisters Haleigh and Taylor Parker, the event’s recognition of First Nations students was important to them.
“So I have been going down to WE day for a couple years and they always did an acknowledgment of territory,” Haleigh says. “For me and my sister Taylor, coming from an Indigenous family, it means a lot to both of us just because reconciliation means a lot to us and we have lost family members due to the effects of residential schools.”
Rhys Middleton and Richard Jurasek accepted the award on behalf of the committee, taking to the stage in front of a massive audience to receive it.
“It was really inspiring to be up there in front of that many people,” Middleton begins. “And it was really nice to meet the people backstage as well. All of them are genuine good people. It was crazy to see the rush that went on behind stage as well.”
However, the committee stressed the fact this award was for the entire district and not just their committee. In fact, they presented the award back to the district at the Dec. 18 school board meeting in Salmon Arm and expressed thanks for the help of fellow students.
When asked what they would say to fellow students interested in taking part, or to anyone hoping to get involved in volunteerism, there was no shortage of quick responses.
“Just the experience you get from volunteering, and learning more about your community as well is amazing. You just gain so much experience from it,” says Sebastian Nyeste. “There are so many ideas from other people that you would never think of yourself. It is neat hearing other people’s opinions and what drives people.”
“It can always add a bit more perspective to your life, another point of view which is always beneficial,” adds Chris Ollinger.
“It’s so that you can help make something greater than yourself. Like how to plan and fund a project, something that is beyond our own world,” says Andrew Hall.