We Care at Greystone
At the start of the year students were given the opportunity to apply for a place on a student driven leadership club called the “We Care Team.” Students from every grade level responded to the call, and submitted an application letter to be considered. Students were then chosen based on these applications and references to attend the very first We Day conference ever held in Calgary.
The speakers and performances at this conference included Larry King, Spencer West, Liz Murray, Hedley, Lights, and many more. The overall message was that of youth empowerment to make a positive change in the world! After hearing the powerful stories from these dynamic individuals, our students were inspired to do more than just listen. They came back to the school with a flood of ideas that were driven by their heart to help others. This initial spark ignited a wildfire within the Greystone community, and as a result the entire student body has in some way been involved with a We Care outreach initiative this year.
The local outreach project the students decided to focus on was the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation. This charity supports research, education, and training into new treatments and cures for child health issues. It also provides specialized programs to assist patients and their families as they encounter unimaginable challenges. Inspired by family members and friends who have received help from the Stollery, the We Care team approached this project passionately and creatively.
With the penny on its way out of circulation, the We Care team decided to declare a “Penny War!” Each grade was given a large water cooler bottle to fill at the front of the school. Every day the We Care group counted up the tally of coins coming in from each class, and recorded it publicly to fuel the competition between each class in the school. A penny would grant the class one positive point, but if student brought in any silver coins or bills they could be sent to other classes as negative points to sabotage their tally! The competition was fierce and students spent weeks scrounging under couch cushions at home to bring in as many coins as possible to contribute to their class count. Some might think that something as small as a penny might not make that much of a difference. In fact, some people might consider a penny worthless. But when our students combined all their pennies we started to see how much of an impact “pennies” could have when added up together! After only a week the table the coin bottles had been sitting on actually collapsed under the weight of all the pennies! With students and volunteers still rolling and counting pennies, we estimate that we have collected well over $3000 worth of “change for change!”
The international project the We Care voted to support is called “Operation Smile.” This is a charity that provides medical support and operations for children born with a cleft lip. Without medical help children in impoverished areas around the world with this deformity have difficulty eating, drinking, speaking, socializing, or even smiling. According to statistics on Operation Smile’s website one in ten of these children will die before their first birthday. Learning about the desperate need these children had made an impact on the students in the team.
The We Care Team first created awareness in the school by presenting their research to parents during a school event, and then to the rest of the school in an assembly. They also organized a plastic egg hunt the day before Spring Break. The whole school was invited to seek out hidden eggs all over the school which each held a fact about Operation Smile and a draw tag. If students found an egg they could put their name and class on the draw tag, and enter to win a prize. The catch was that they had to remember the fact about operation smile to collect their prize! The outcome was an entire school population who now understood why the We Care team needed their help to make a difference around the world. This publicity was followed up with a school art auction to raise money for the charity. Students in each grade donated crafts, drawings, and paintings to be auctioned off to fellow students. The response was overwhelming, and the team continues to invest time and energy to support this cause.
Probably the most exciting thing about the We Care leadership is that after each event I have students approach me about joining the team! The numbers of our We Care Team have grown dramatically with engaged, enthusiastic, and driven students who are invested in making a difference in their school, community, and beyond. The Greystone We Care Team is already making plans for their next outreach. Three grade five girls presented the team with a plan to create an anti-bullying outreach and support the Kids Help Phone this spring.
It is remarkable to see what students are capable of accomplishing when they are inspired and empowered. We hope that other schools or individuals are motivated by what our group is doing, and that those with experience in leadership are able to offer advice or ideas as we take on new challenges!