Chatfield Elementary School's student council members attended the first ever We Day celebration at the Xcel Energy Center in the Twin Cities.  They are, in front, from left, Rebecca Fox, Richelle Sherman, Henry Gathje, Austin Koenigs and Nathan Dietz. In back are Cameron Schroeder, Molly Henry, Cameron Westphal, Jaylin Sprau, Brea Kobs, Devann Harris, Sara Duxbury and Abigail Hinckley.
Chatfield Elementary School's student council members attended the first ever We Day celebration at the Xcel Energy Center in the Twin Cities. They are, in front, from left, Rebecca Fox, Richelle Sherman, Henry Gathje, Austin Koenigs and Nathan Dietz. In back are Cameron Schroeder, Molly Henry, Cameron Westphal, Jaylin Sprau, Brea Kobs, Devann Harris, Sara Duxbury and Abigail Hinckley.
We.

Those are two letters Devann Harris believes in.

The Chatfield Elementary School sixth grader attended the Minnesota We Day celebration at the Excel Energy Center in St. Paul on Tuesday, Oct. 8, along with 13 other Chatfield Elementary fifth and sixth grade student council members. The students earned the privilege of attending the convention that was a consortium for global and local change.

"I enjoyed going to We Day because I knew I'd come back with new ways to help our community and world," Harris said. "And I also knew I would feel inspired to get out in this world and make a difference. My favorite part was being in that arena with 18,000 people, all with the same goal. To just feel all that human energy was just great. I was absolutely floored."

Among the speakers and performers of the Minnesota We Day convention were celebrities Mia Farrow, singer Carly Rae Jepsen, actress Demi Lovato, the Jonas Brothers; politicians and dignitaries Gov. Mark Dayton, Queen Noor of Jordan, Martin Luther King, III; members of the Minnesota Vikings; Minnesota Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius; and other special guests including We Day founders Craig and Marc Kielburger. There were also numerous courageous young people who spoke of the trials they endured and the rewards they earned from taking the challenge of being the best people they could be.

Chatfield counselor Sara Duxbury, who chaperoned the students, related, "It's a program created by two boys, and it's about the environment, focusing on schools, community and nation, reaching out to do the different things we can for everyone."

The We Day website explained We Day is beginning to catalyze change here and around the world. It stated, "We Day is part of a family of organizations, including Free The Children and Me to We, that has a shared goal: to empower a generation to shift the world from 'me' to 'we' - through how we act, how we give, the choices we make on what to buy and what to wear, the media we consume and the experiences with which we choose to engage."

It is an international charity and educational partner, a social enterprise, a series of youth empowerment events that celebrate active citizenship and a year-round program that educates and engages young people to take action on social issues.

Over the years, the charity website stated it has "learned that the shift to 'we' will happen when we empower young people to fulfill their potential as agents of positive change. To achieve this goal, we create and provide all the resources they need to become active local and global citizens. We also work alongside educators, families, and companies to equip them with the tools to inspire a generation of caring and compassionate young leaders."

Duxbury said the students had a good time dancing and celebrating at We Day, but they also learned sobering facts, such as there are children in other countries who are slaves. They heard stories of triumph, such as the story of a man who has no legs but still climbed a mountain.

"We're going to try to acknowledge the 'We Days,' including 'We Scare Hunger,' where they're going to collect food while they're trick-or-treating and take it to the food shelf, and there's one for Valentine's Day - 'We are Love,' 'We are Silent' - to recognize domestic abuse and violence on the morning of April 17, and just to create change," Duxbury added. "We'll start with 'We Scare,' but the kids want to do every one. I'm hoping to get three done this year, to change our environment and school."

Harris's enthusiasm is about to reach the contagion point.

She said, "I think people should know that the speeches delivered to us by the speakers were very motivational and inspiring. They talked about how we can do big things if we set our minds to it. They taught us that we can have an impact on this world."

Harris added that she is very excited about everything she and her fellow students have planned for this year because it means getting to help make people's lives better.

"I'm a big believer in volunteer work and time commitment," said Harris. "Some of the things we have set up are things having to do with charity. We can all come together and form a big group - a big group that is willing to put in the time and effort to help make people's lives a little easier. By donating things to charities, we can make a difference for people."

Harris explained that one of the first actions the students brought back with them from the convention is the "We Scare Hunger" project. She said, "What happens with this is instead of collecting candy on Halloween, we can collect non-perishable food items to donate to different food shelves."

She also noted that she and the student council will be hosting bullying prevention weeks at school where they will have a new theme each week.

"I'm most excited for all the bullying prevention things we plan on doing," Harris said. "To me, bullying is an especially important aspect to focus on. This worldwide problem is something we can all participate in resolving."

The 12-year-old commented, "It's important to do these things because not only does it help others, it helps us too. Working to make differences in other people's lives makes us better as a person, creating a new generation to make this world a greater place."

Duxbury concurred, "The focus is on that this is the generation that can make a difference...that if we teach kids that they have the power to make a difference, they will."

Harris said she would like everyone to know that everybody on the Chosen Valley Elementary Student Council has worked so hard to accomplish their goals.

"We have big plans for the future and hope to make a change in this world," she concluded.