By Emily Bialkowski
On Oct. 8 a crowd of 18,000 Minnesota students and teachers from more than 400 Minnesota schools and community groups gathered at the Xcel Energy Center for one awesome concert. Among the throng of youth was more than three dozen Caledonia teens and their adult chaperones.
The students earned their way to the concert through service and volunteerism. Tickets are not sold for this concert, which takes place across the country under the name “We Day.”
Founded by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger, We Day encourages and awards volunteerism for all issues that young people care about. Sponsors make the concert possible.
Headlining this year’s show were more than a dozen renouned speakers and artists, including Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen; platinum-selling artist and star of Disney’s “Good Luck Charlie” Bridgit Mendler; Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton; and members of the Minnesota Vikings NFL team, among many others.
Inspirational speakers, such as Martin Luther King III and Molly Burke, shared their amazing stories about taking action to create change.
This was the first year Caledonia sent a delegation to the event. National Honor Society members, the Student Council, some class officers and other people that indicated an interest in attending, such as letter winners, hopped on a bus at 6:30 a.m. and headed for the cities.
They were greeted by a throng of other eager teens.
“It was really fun because everyone was so excited and cheering,” Caledonia senior Laura Jergenson said.
Students were given grab bags that included bracelets that lit up on impact, so every time someone clapped a flash of light would appear.
The event swung from performer to speaker to keep the momentum moving, and it wasn’t the pop idols, such as the Jonas Brothers, that Caledonia kids reported enjoying the most. They said they really liked The Tenors, a vocal quartet who performs operatic pop, and Fifth Harmony, an American teen girl group.
And although the entertainment was certainly something to chat about and enjoy, the students said they left the concert with underlying thoughts about accomplishing good and making the world a better place.
“It showed us that no matter who you are, you can make a big difference,” Jergenson said.
“And also to be thankful for what you have because there are a lot of kids less fortunate than us,” senior Julia Jones added.
Two speakers in particular left an indelible impression on the students.
Burke, for example, came out on stage appearing like any other teen, but then asked for the lights to be shut off and for the audience to be quiet. Burke is blind and yet accomplishes great things each day with her message that all challenges can be overcome.
“Molly Burke’s story about her being blind probably moved me the most. She was the most down to earth person ever. Her story on bullying was terrible and got me to thinking I can find ways to stop bullying because I cannot imagine what that would be like,” Kaylee Cavanaugh said in a follow-up essay she was required to write.
Speaker Spencer West’s initial appearance was even more striking, Jergenson said.
“He was a man who walked with his hands and lost the lower half of his body. People told him he’d just spend his life in care, but he’s worked to have a somewhat normal life. It was weird to see but really inspiring.”
The long day left the students with a lot to think about, and Student Council adviser Sue Link said the group will consider ways to integrate the experience.
“The Student Council has moved away from actual governance over the years and is becoming more of a philanthropic organization,” she said.
Students who attended We Day from Caledonia include: Laura Jergenson, Adam Forrester, Thomas Jergenson, Andrew Marschall, Alyssa Meiners, Lydia Melde, Olivia Adamson, Erin Meiners, Kelly Schansberg, Mariah Schmitz, Olivia Schmitz, Carrie Schoh, Sela Schroeder, Katelyn Schulte, Ashley Bichel, Trece Frank, Alison Goergen, Lauren Hendel, Meggan Scanlan, Brenna Werner, Jacob Cuda, Aaron Goetting, Julia Jones, Eric Meyer, Josef Pettit, West Spier, Kendra Heim, Lydia DeMorett, Samantha Colleran, Heather Bruening, Nolan Rohrer, Claire Thimmisch, Phillip Paulson, Emily Adamson, Kyle Sorenson, Carson Coffield, Olivia Twite, Alexis Simpson, Sydney McCabe, Becky Meyer, Jenna Scnalan, Kelsea Evans, Adrianna Reinhart, Bryan Barthel and Kaylee Cavanaugh.