By Anthony Salcito as written on educationblog.microsoft.com
Microsoft is proud to partner with WE, an organization that brings people together and gives them the tools to change the world. Microsoft shares that vision and, through its technology, is helping WE accelerate their impact.
I had the privilege of attending WE Day recently in Vancouver, Canada and meeting with co-founder of WE, Craig Kielburger.
As I met with Craig, I learned a great deal more about WE and we discussed some of the ways Microsoft is working with them to expand the WE mission to reach more students and empower youth as a force for inclusion.
Q&A with Craig Kielburger, co-founder of WE
Anthony: I attended WE Day in Vancouver, BC recently, and I was overwhelmed by the energy and commitment of these students. What inspired you to build this amazing organization?
Craig: At the age of 12, I was inspired to help improve human rights for children around the world after I heard a story about Iqbal Masih, a young activist in Pakistan, who stood up against child labor. I knew I couldn’t make significant change alone, so I convinced a handful of my grade 7 classmates to join me in making a life-changing impact. That was how WE was born and, 20 years later, we are still passionate about empowering young people to be leaders of today through WE programming, such as WE Schools and WE Day.
We celebrate the incredible commitment of these students to service through WE Day, an inspiring, stadium-sized, life-changing event that takes place around the world. It unites world-renowned speakers, presenters and award-winning performers with thousands of young people and families to celebrate and inspire another year of incredible change. These are hosted in cities across North America and the UK. What’s unique about these stadium-sized events is that you can’t buy a ticket to WE Day – students earn their ticket by taking one local and one global action on causes they are most passionate about.
Anthony: Tell me about your vision for WE Schools.
Craig: WE Schools is a free, year-long service learning program that focuses on empowering students with the tools to make an impact in their local communities and beyond.
The WE Schools program has grown to include more than 12,000 schools and engages nearly a million students. WE Schools provide educators and students with the necessary tools, including curriculum and resources, to identify issues they care about and to take action. Educators can sign up at https://www.we.org/we-schools/.
This year, we are partnering with Microsoft to make the WE Schools curriculum digitally accessible through Microsoft OneNote, widening our reach and granting more students and educators around the world with access to our service curriculum. Our goal is to bring a passion for service to as many students as possible and, by 2019, we hope to triple the number of schools participating.
Anthony: How do you see the partnership with Microsoft helping advance your vision and mission?
Craig: Microsoft and WE share a common vision to help students be a force for good, locally and globally. That’s why we recently launched WE are One, a campaign that educates young people about issues of accessibility and encourages them to use technology to make their communities more inclusive.
Using Microsoft products and programs, classrooms will be able to organize, collaborate and share ideas on important issues. With technology – especially tools like OneNote, and Skype – we can go from reaching a million students to millions of students around the world.
The WE are One campaign also comes with accompanying WE Schools curriculum, outlining ways to integrate OneNote, Sway, Skype and Minecraft: Education Edition into lesson plans, to help students create and share their projects. This campaign is a great example of how we are digitizing WE Schools curriculum and, as a result, reaching students all over the world.
Anthony: Of course, Microsoft is thrilled to be part of WE are One because it speaks so clearly to our mission to empower students and educators to do more. Can you share an example where technology has made a difference for a student looking to make a change to help others?
Craig: At this week’s WE Day Seattle, taking place on Friday, April 21, we will be joined by Maia Dua, a 16 year-old from River City High School in Sacramento, CA. He developed a robot as a cost-effective and durable alternative to a seeing-eye dog. The self-propelled, echo-locating Seeing Eye-Bot is made of readily accessible materials, making it more available to individuals of limited financial resources. The best part is that Maia developed this bot in just four days.
Anthony: As powerful is WE Day is, not every student can attend. How can those students (and their teachers) share this powerful experience?
Craig: Following WE Day Seattle, educators and students will be able to access the WE Day recap, which includes a virtual WE Day experience with motivational speeches and performances available at their fingertips, as well as educator resources.
In 60 minutes or less, students will be able to relive the celebration of young change-makers and experience exclusive, behind-the-scenes content. The WE Day recap pairs content from the event with WE Schools action planning to bring the spirit of the WE movement to the classroom. Now, thanks to Microsoft, WE Day lives beyond a one-day event, making it easier for students, friends and family to change the world together, regardless of their location.
How you can be part of WE
Learn more about WE Schools – and sign up – at WE.org, where you can download a free kit with everything you need for a year of changing the world.