'We Day' brings all-star cast to rev up Minnesota youth

18,000 Minnesota students agree to make the world a better place.

Minnesota’s most celebrity-packed event of the year rocked St. Paul on Tuesday as 18,000 teens screamed just as loudly for Martin Luther King III and Queen Noor of Jordan as they did for heartthrobs Jonas Brothers and singer Dessa.

It was the first Minnesota “We Day,” a daylong event in which students jammed the Xcel Energy Center for inspiration and entertainment. Featured celebrities and motivational speakers encouraged teens to help their communities and the world. Everyone at the high-energy event had pledged to do volunteer work in the year ahead.

It’s the foundation of We Day, launched in Canada in 2007 by the nonprofit Free the Children and now the most high-profile event in the youth service world.

More than 160,000 students in the United States and Canada will participate in similar events over the course of the year.

“We Day shows our generation that it’s possible to change the world … and that it’s cool to care,” said We Day co-founder Craig Kielburger.

That was the message of the day, delivered by such varied advocates as actress Mia Farrow, Bridgit Mendler of Disney’s “Good Luck Charlie,” singer Carly Rae Jepson, the Kenyan Boys Choir, several Minnesota Vikings players and more.

Emma Hudson Sanchez, a freshman at the Main Street School of Performing Arts in Hopkins, called the event “amazing.”

“It gave me goose bumps just watching some of the videos,” Sanchez said. “It was so inspiring. ”

Inspiration was the goal of We Day, which drew students and teachers from 400 Minnesota schools who signed up to participate in “We Act” — volunteer opportunities throughout the year.

The project was endorsed by Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius and Gov. Mark Dayton, who was on hand to proclaim Tuesday “Minnesota We Day.”

Martin Luther King III, one of the first speakers, told the crowd that the message of We Day would clearly resonate with his father.

“My father understood that every generation has its calling,” King said.

“If my father and mother were alive, I can assure you they would be right in the middle of this movement.”

A lesson from royalty

Queen Noor told the students that the “values of We Day” are not held by just one culture.

She also shared the importance of keeping abreast of events around the world. In war-torn Syria, for example, more than 3,000 schools have been destroyed, she said, and another 1,000 were converted into shelters. About a million students have dropped out of school.

Can you imagine if that many students weren’t attending Minnesota schools, she asked.

Meanwhile Joe Jonas, of the Jonas Brothers, challenged his fans to raise enough money to build two schools in developing countries — part of a fundraising project available through “We Create Change.’’

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  • “Shape Ship” dancers performed to a medley of music and excerpts from the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech of “I Have a Dream” at the Xcel Center in St. Paul. Tuesday’s daylong “We Day” rally was part of a international movement to inspire teens to care about service.

  • Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan spoke to students at the "We Day" rally at the Xcel Center, Tuesday, October 8, 2013 in St. Paul, MN. (ELIZABETH FLORES/STAR TRIBUNE) ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com

  • Minnetonka students responded when they were recognized during the “We Day” rally at the Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday. The event brought together celebrities and peer role models to encourage teens to care about making a difference.

  • Joe Jonas and the Jonas Brothers performed at the "We Day" rally at the Xcel Center, Tuesday, October 8, 2013 in St. Paul, MN. (ELIZABETH FLORES/STAR TRIBUNE) ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com

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