A number of Hapnot Collegiate students have returned from an event eager to make a difference.
The group of students attended WE Day – an international event that encourages learning, volunteering and humanitarianism – at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre on Nov. 18.
The group heard speeches and performances from an impressive array of figures, including astronaut Chris Hadfield, mental-health advocate Margaret Trudeau and activist and parathlete Rick Hansen. The group later got the chance to meet Hansen, away from the stage.
Another memorable moment came when Mike Downie went on stage. Downie, the brother of Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie, shared the stage with the sisters of the late Chanie Wenjack.
Wenjack’s tragic death in 1966 spurred the first national inquest into treatment of aboriginal children in residential schools. The Downie and Wenjack families have combined to create the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund, which raises funds for the Winnipeg-based National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
“A few students were really touched by that,” said Natalie Milligan, a teacher at Hapnot and a chaperone for the trip. “The sisters sang an aboriginal prayer for everyone, which was very touching. It were very emotional for everyone. You could hear them getting choked up while they were singing. It was so good to see residential schools being talked about in front of 16,000 young people and saying, ‘This happened. What do we do next?’”
During their trip to Winnipeg, the students also attended a second gathering, titled the Evening of Inspiration.
“It’s a special event that a select group of people are invited to,” said Rachel Hyska, a Hapnot student who attended the meeting. “We were lucky enough to be in that this year. One way to get in is to do a lot of work locally and internationally, and we were recognized for that.”
At the meeting, the group met Craig and Marc Kielburger, the founders of WE Day and international aid and humanitarian group WE.
While in Winnipeg, the students also visited the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The group took a guided tour of the museum, where the teens’ level of knowledge impressed their guides.
“Most of it comes from their own research and their own interests on these topics, but the guide kept asking, ‘What are you teaching in your class? They’re so well-informed, they know the answers to everything,’” said Milligan. “It was really amazing. I’m super, super proud of them.”
The Hapnot students travelled to Winnipeg after volunteering and working with local groups, a requirement for attending WE Day.