Photos above: John Delaney
By Jordan Mady
For the seventh consecutive year, thousands of young people filled the seats of the Air Canada Centre on Friday, Sept. 20 for We Day – an event launched by Free The Children founders, Craig and Marc Keilburger to promote youth activism.
Global leaders, inspirational speakers, and artists all came together under one roof to inspire young people and provide them with the resources to make changes in the local and global community.
This year, Ryerson was a sponsor of the event. The University gave a donation, volunteers, and some of the students enrolled in the dance program were part of the opening act.
Although We Day is intended to be an educational event, organizers have incorporated an entertainment aspect. The event is a balance between a leadership conference and a rock concert. It’s been referred to as a “one-day party.”
Dalal Al-Waheidi, executive director of We Day, said that’s the idea.
“We’re making social issues cool,” she said. “We’re going to have 20,000 young people come in wanting to learn about issues and make change.”
We Day isn’t the type of show that people can buy tickets for. Instead, students must be invited. They earn their spots by participating We Act – a program where individuals can develop campaigns to support different causes.
This year’s performance line up included big names like the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, Barenaked Ladies, Serena Ryder, and Imagine Dragons. Many renowned speakers also took to the stage.
Sheldon Levy, Ryerson University’s president, was one of those speakers. He spoke alongside Ryerson graduate, Teriano Lesancha.
Lesancha was the first girl from her Maasai village to study abroad, go to university, and receive a degree. She emphasized the power of education during her speech, highlighting how it has helped her and her community back home.
“I believe in education and through it, we can change the world,” said Lesancha.
Levy relayed a similar message.
“You go back a number of years and no one would believe that Teriano would be here today,” said Levy. “No dream is too big and never have anyone tell you your dreams can’t come true.”
Other speakers included Craig and Mark Keilburger, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne and Martin Luther King III. The audience also heard from younger individuals, like thirteen-year-old Sydney Brouillard-Coyle, who has been volunteering since the age of six, and twelve-year-old Vishal Vijay, who told stories of youth activism.
“They’re learning about the issues, seeing the role models, and Learning how to take action,” Al-Waheidi said. “We Day is the tip of the iceberg.”
As for Ryerson, Al-Waheidi said that in upcoming years, there is potential to expand the university’s presence in We Day by having the school provide interns from journalism, public relations, digital media and other programs.