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There were crowds of youth flanking all the main entrances into Key Arena. They wore matching shirts, face paint, with neon signs propped over their shoulders that read “WE are the change!” and “Spencer West we love you!”
The energy of 15,000 young people poured into the Seattle stadium on March 27, 2013 for the first-ever US We Day, a youth event focused around social issues and community service. As a co-title sponsor, Microsoft helped bring the event to the U.S. as part of its YouthSpark initiative, which aims to create opportunities for young people around the globe.
Three young people were nominated by their schools to experience and report on a special backstage peak of We Day. Gabrielle, Delaney, and Keilon acted as Microsoft YouthSpark Reporters and had special access to roam the arena, interview celebrities, and even speak on stage about their experience.
They share below their first-person accounts of their We Day experiences.
From left to right: Gabby, We Day host Munro Chambers, Delaney and Keilon on the YouthSpark stage.
YouthSpark Reporters at Microsoft’s VIP suite.
YouthSpark Reporter Gabrielle:
“We all have the same goal of a better, safer community.”
Each speaker and performer at We Day had a message or a cause they represented. One of the most inspiring speakers to me was Molly Burke, who was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of four. She shares her story and obstacles to inspire youth to view everyone equally, whether they suffer from mental illness or physical impairment.
For Burke, it was bullying in schools. Martin Luther King III stated that his goal was to “address issues on poverty, race, and violence.” Nine-year-old Robby Novak, the YouTube sensation known as Kid President, said that he wishes to change the world by “feeding people.” Despite Novak’s fragile bone condition (known as osteogenesis imperfect) he strives to inspire other young kids that they can change the world.
Seeing numerous celebrities, including surprise guest Macklemore, Grammy Award winner Jennifer Hudson, and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, speak about their dedication to social change showed me that we all have the same goal of a better, safer community.
The We Day theme is “We inspire the change.” Free The Children founder, Craig Kielburger has it exactly right: it is the youth of today that inspire the change. Initiatives such as Microsoft YouthSpark and Free The Children’s We Act program provide these unparalleled experiences for youth to get a jump start on the change they wish to see in the world.
Keilon at dress rehearsal at Key Arena, the day before We Day.
YouthSpark Reporter Keilon:
“I was humbled, to say the least.”
My name is Keilon. I was one of three privileged young adults chosen as Microsoft YouthSpark Reporters at We Day. I was nominated by one of my teachers due to my active role in my community and neighborhood.
At We Day, I was overwhelmed by the level of energy in the arena from the moment I stepped in. As a YouthSpark Reporter, I got to be anywhere and everywhere at the event so I didn’t miss a beat. The day was PACKED with motivational speaking, thrilling performances, and just the right amount of controlled chaos to keep the crowed excited.
Being backstage was an amazing experience. Seeing how a production of this scale operated from the inside was mind blowing. Everything was on a schedule. Backstage was hectic, wild and frantic. And yet when it was time to be on stage everything went so smoothly, and flowed flawlessly.
I met people who I never in my wildest dreams thought I would even see in real life. I was humbled, to say the least. Pete Carroll and Martin Luther King III were two of the most sincere, genuinely motivating people I’ve had the pleasure to meet. Shaking Mr. Carroll’s hand and hearing Mr. King’s words were experiences that will stick with me forever:
“If your passion is to be a street sweeper, you sweep streets the way Beethoven composed music. You sweep streets the way Rafael painted pictures. You sweep streets the way Muhammad Ali boxed. It’s not about what you do but how well you do it.” -Martin Luther King III
Delaney captures a photo of her and Gabrielle at We Day on her new Windows Phone from Microsoft YouthSpark.
YouthSpark Reporter Delaney:
“I knew giving up was not an option.”
My journey to We Day started back in the fall of 2012, when an incredible organization called Free The Children made a visit to my high school. Craig Kielburger, the founder of it all, aimed to inspire us to take action to make a change for our communities and the world through social activism. To add fuel to our fiery excitement, he told us of We Day; an inspirational event bringing together youth engaged in changing the world through music and motivational speeches. His empowering words sparked a movement in my town, and the youth of the area soon took action.
I earned my ticket to We Day by taking part in “253 Scares Hunger”, an event on Halloween where kids and teens from all across the Seattle/Tacoma area trick or treated for non-perishable food items. Over 300 youth turned out for the event and together we collected over 10,000 pounds of food in just one night. This huge undertaking directly benefited over 3,000 people in need, and it benefited us teens as well. I personally felt truly accomplished with the haul we brought in, and hearing how many people we helped acted as a driving force to work even harder to better my community.
Not long before We Day, my advisor told me of a special opportunity to be a YouthSpark Reporter. When I found out I was selected, I was nearly shaking with excitement at the thought of meeting stars such as Jennifer Hudson and Martin Sheen. I couldn’t wait to go backstage and see the whole event inside and out. I was in awe at the list of famous celebrities that were to attend. Yet when I was finally there, I found myself the most impacted by a man I had previously never heard of: Spencer West.
Spencer was a true inspiration to me. To raise awareness of Free The Children’s sustainable water campaign, he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro - on his hands! Spencer had his legs amputated at age five due to a genetic disorder, but did that stop him? Certainly not. His story forced me to recognize that I have no good excuses. I realized that I could reach my goals no matter the obstacle; I just have to work hard and stay motivated.
Thanks to this experience with Microsoft YouthSpark, my motivation to succeed soared even higher. Many highlights of the day helped to affirm my passion for both journalism and photography. As a YouthSpark Reporter, I was humbled to meet and interview Martin Luther King III, meet celebrities I had idolized for years like Monique Coleman and Munro Chambers, and take part in a real press conference like I had always dreamed. I kept pinching myself out of sheer disbelief.
This experience was like no other; it was priceless. Without it, I might have given up on my passions. But after my day as a Microsoft YouthSpark reporter, I knew giving up was not an option. I learned that the road to success is always bumpy, and those who truly wish to achieve it must hold on tight.
To learn more about YouthSpark programs and initiatives, check out http://spr.ly/YSH to see the 30+ free programs we have for youth ages 6-24, worldwide.