WE Day's 15,000 invitees include 30 from Mount Prospect

  • Some of the members of the service club at Holmes Junior High School in Mount Prospect discuss plans for donating supplies to a local homeless shelter. From left, Christina Patras, Sofia Castro, Kamika Patel, Shala Garcia, Kelly Tejeda, Melissa Hernandez and Anna Nyzhnyk.

    Some of the members of the service club at Holmes Junior High School in Mount Prospect discuss plans for donating supplies to a local homeless shelter. From left, Christina Patras, Sofia Castro, Kamika Patel, Shala Garcia, Kelly Tejeda, Melissa Hernandez and Anna Nyzhnyk. Courtesy of Mark Schwarz

  • Kelly Cortez, Izabella Manka and Christina Sebastian, students at Holmes Junior High School in Mount Prospect, are among 15,000 Illinois students attending WE Day Thursday in Rosemont, a star-studded event to highlight students taking action on local and global causes they care about.

    Kelly Cortez, Izabella Manka and Christina Sebastian, students at Holmes Junior High School in Mount Prospect, are among 15,000 Illinois students attending WE Day Thursday in Rosemont, a star-studded event to highlight students taking action on local and global causes they care about. Courtesy of Mark Schwarz

  • Singer Paula Abdul is one of the celebrities participating in WE Day Thursday at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont. The event is sponsored by Northbrook-based Allstate Insurance.

    Singer Paula Abdul is one of the celebrities participating in WE Day Thursday at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont. The event is sponsored by Northbrook-based Allstate Insurance. Associated Press

 
By Megan McNichols Mahon
Daily Herald correspondent

Some things money can't buy -- like a ticket to one of the biggest shows around town this week. The price of admission to WE Day Illinois, a star-packed event celebrating youth empowerment, is a commitment to change the world.

More than 15,000 Illinois students and teachers from 400 schools earned their ticket to attend Thursday's event at Allstate Arena in Rosemont by taking action on at least one local and one global cause they care about. WE Day Illinois will feature performances, speeches and presentations by stars and international activists including Ciara, Martin Luther King III, Paula Abdul, Jordan Smith, J.R. Martinez and Nico & Vinz, along with local students sharing their stories. You can find out more at weday.com.

"WE Day is really about elevating the good works of kids," said Francie Schnipke Richards, director of WE Day and WE Schools Illinois. "It's meant to honor, celebrate, reward, educate and further inspire them to stay service-oriented."

Among this year's WE Day attendees will be 30 students from Holmes Junior High School in Mount Prospect. The students, members of the Holmes Heroes service club, are tackling local issues of homelessness and hunger along with the global issue of food security in Congo.

And their efforts are more than just talk, according to Holmes teacher and club adviser Mark Schwarz.

"It's not pie-in-the-sky stuff. They're creating things, raising funds and connecting with organizations in our community. They're making a dent," Schwarz said.

The students are working with a homeless shelter in Mount Prospect and will be donating "care kits" filled with soap, toothpaste and other supplies along with handwritten notes of encouragement.

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They've raised more than $300 through a "Go Fund Me" campaign and are planning an all-school fundraiser next week called "Torture the Teacher," where students will donate money to see teachers do things like shave their heads or eat a bug. "That obviously wasn't my idea," Schwarz said.

Students also raised money by selling gum during lunch periods to support donations to local food pantries serving residents in their area. "Students are really into the idea of giving back to the community," said eighth-grader Izabella Manka.

Getting students to "really pay attention" to issues of local hunger and homelessness is an important part of the group's mission, according to eighth-grader Kelly Cortez.

"I really like volunteering and helping others. It just makes my heart feel really warm," she said. "And I think it's good that we're bringing out things that are going on locally and globally that people don't really notice."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

WE Day is the culmination of a yearlong WE Schools program that provides schools with free tools and a blueprint for getting involved in local and global issues, Richards said. More than 620 Illinois schools have registered for the WE Schools program since its launch in Illinois two years ago.

"That's how the movement is growing and that's why we're able to fill an arena with extraordinary young people who care about service," she said.

As WE Day approaches, Cortez said that more than seeing celebrities, she's most excited to hear stories about community service.

"I'm just really inspired by other people who do things for their community. That's the thing I'm most looking forward to," she said.

Manka said she's heard from friends who attended last year's event that it was an unforgettable experience. "I heard that WE Day was something you wanted to be a part of before you left Holmes Junior High."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Schwarz, who also attended WE Day last year, said he's looking forward to hearing inspiring stories and coming home with new ideas for next year. "When we got back home last year, everyone was just that much more inspired to do really good things."

Illinois is one of four states hosting a WE Day event, and the inspirational shows also take place in the United Kingdom and Canada, where the program started in 2007. Northbrook-based Allstate Insurance is a national sponsor of WE Day.

You can watch WE Day Illinois live beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday, April 28, at www.we.org/watch.

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