A former (and future?) first daughter, a top-selling pop star, and other artists, actors and activists will highlight Tuesday’s We Day Minnesota event at the Xcel Energy Center. It’s an impressive lineup. But it’s likely that Chelsea Clinton, Ciara and others on stage would agree that the real stars are the more than 18,000 students who earned their tickets by taking action on one local and one global cause as part of We Schools, a yearlong service-based educational program.
Minnesota students are giving back in record numbers, according to recently released data from the state Department of Education, a We Day partner. Each of the 540 Minnesota We Schools was surveyed, and the statistics stand as a testament to the impact the program has had in its three-year run.
Youth engagement in service programs increased 204 percent in the 2014-15 school year from 2013-14, and 197,000-plus young people volunteered 695,000 service hours, up from 167,861. Donations were up, too, both in money ($836,000 vs. $378,250) and in food (up 13 percent to 180,000 pounds). Overall, more than 2,500 organizations — from UNICEF to Toys for Tots and beyond — have benefited.
The impact could be long-lasting. “Some of the kids who will be in St. Paul I hope will carry on this initiative and make it a worldwide community of kids who do good and change the world,” said Dean Phillips, who along with his sister Hutton are co-chairs of We Day Minnesota.
And after three years, it does seem that what was once an event has evolved into a movement among many Minnesota students.
“Our inaugural We Day three years ago was a lot about inspiration, in that we really believed our youth could make a difference at home and around the world,” said David Stillman, director of U.S. expansion at Free the Children, the Canadian-based organization behind We Day. “Now it’s as much of a celebration as it is an inspiration, because the results are phenomenal. It’s the other 364 days that the students are even more proud of.”
Minnesotans should be proud, too, and celebrate this generation’s generosity.