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WE Day students work to make a difference locally & globally

Students take up a collection during WE Day SunDome It’s amazing the reach our students can have and the good they can do in our community. So far this year we’ve had students collect more 1,000 pounds of food for the local food bank, organize a basic needs drive for a local shelter and send more than 60 boxes filled with surprises and necessities to children in third-world countries.

These few things don’t begin to scratch the surface of what our students have been able to accomplish since school started in the fall. Through the WE Day program our students have made a difference both at home and abroad.

WE Day is a program that started in Canada. It’s a call to action for students – asking them to shift their thinking from me to we. To stop thinking in terms of what I can do and instead to think about everything we accomplish when we work together.

Every year for the past four years the Grandview School District as sent students to the regional WE Day conference in Seattle. Every year in April, Key Arena is filled with students from throughout the region who have worked hard putting together both local and global projects. Those students then spend the day hearing from inspirational speakers, learning about ways other people have made a difference and end the day being rewarded for their hard work and dedication with a performance by a world-class musician.

Alondra Perez, president and founder of Grandview High School’s Hounds Have Heart Club, has been involved in WE Day since the beginning.

“When you go (to WE Day) you feel like you have accomplished so much,” Perez said. “But then you come back and feel like there is so much more you can do.”

Perez said the energy in the arena during WE Day is overwhelming, everyone is gathered for one reason – to make a difference.

In Grandview, WE Day involvement has increased exponentially. When the Grandview School District first got involved with WE Day the focus was on high school-aged students and eighth graders. Over the past few years that reach has grown to include all of the schools in the district. The youngest members are in fifth grade.

Perez said she thinks it’s a great movement for fifth graders to be involved in because it helps open their world view beyond Grandview. It also shows them that even though they’re just a kid, there is a lot they can accomplish.

“It definitely opens up the kids’ minds,” Perez said. “Anyone can do these things.”

Perez feels so strongly about WE Day that this fall she organized her own mini WE Day event in Yakima as part of her senior project. She invited WE Day students from around the Valley to gather in the SunDome to experience a taste of what the Seattle event will bring. She brought in inspirational speakers, several musical groups performed and they took up a donation to be given to a charity students voted on during the event.

The Grandview School District currently has more than 160 kids involved in WE Day clubs spread across our schools. The largest club in the district is the WE are Koalas Club at Arthur H. Smith Elementary School with 43 fifth grade members.

Each of the clubs works to organize several local community service projects, as well as work on a global initiative. That’s how the students earn their ticket to the big WE Day event in Seattle.

On a local level, the GHS group – Hounds Have Heart – collected 1,000 pounds of food for our local Seventh Day Adventist food back during its WE Scare Hunger event in October. The Smith school group conducted a teddy bear drive earlier this year, then donated the stuffed animals to local homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters. Later this spring, the GMS WE Day group is planning to help take care of the Grandview rose garden.

When it comes to helping on a global level, the McClure school group – Kids that Care – is doing a coin drive. The coins collected will be donated to a group who is working to build schools in Pakistan. In November, the Hounds Have Heart group organized an Operation Christmas Child initiative, where they collected shoeboxes filled with necessities and gifts to send to children in third-world countries.

“This club is important because it helps kids learn that they can do small things to impact their world in a big way,” said McClure school Counselor Jamie Smasne. “Kids love to help and want to contribute to their world in a meaningful way and this organization provides them the structure to do just that.”

This year’s WE Day Seattle will take place on Friday, April 21, at Key Arena.