By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“We aren't just sitting around, a lot of us want to actually go out and do something,” said Journey Orchanian, 12, a seventh-grader.
“It's a chain reaction, we can have bunch of kids in a small group that can make a difference in the world.”
“Some people are trying to stereotype us as a selfish generation,” said eighth-grader Halli Trafton, 14.
“While some of us are selfish that's not really what we are all about.”
Journey and Halli were two of 28 Chimacum Middle School students who participated in We Day on March 21, where 15,000 Washington students gathered at KeyArena in Seattle to celebrate public service.
The students are part of the We Act Club, which is in its first year of operation, fulfilling a goal to benefit one local and one international cause.
The club collected more than 200 pounds of food for the Tri-Area Food Bank and raised $2,000 to benefit educational programs in Haiti.
We Day is sponsored by Free the Children, an international charity group that coordinates programs where students in the US raise money for those who are less fortunate in other countries.
In the process the students learn how to effect change,
“I always wanted to make change happen with some of the global issues and I never had any idea how to do that,” “I started with this group and we had so many great ideas and just made it happen.”
Part of the reason the students join in is finding that hard work can be fun.
“It's really not all that hard,” Orchanian said.
“One day we went all through Port Ludlow and got 36 people to contribute to the food bank and then we got pizza.
“It's not grueling work, you get to be with your friends and you get the best payoff ever.”
The payoff is We Day itself, a gathering where the students hear speeches from people like Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll, Free the Children founder Craig Kielburger, Martin Luther King III and actor Edward Norton.
“He said that he knows a lot of Hollywood celebrities, and they couldn't begin to do what we are doing and we are the real superstars,” Trafton said of Norton.
“A lot of people joined the club so they could go to We Day but they found that the work we do can be a lot of fun because it brings us all closer together.
“We are making memories.”
Each club gets to choose a cause in one of five categories; health and medicine, agriculture, alternate income. water and education.
“You get to pick what you are most passionate about,” Trafton said.
“We wanted to do something that was close to home, but also wanted to help people in Haiti,” Orchanian said.
The chain reaction is working, Orchanian said, a meeting subsequent to We Day drew a number of new recruits.
“Some people are trying to bring you down and say you can't change the world,” said seventh grader Jayden Roberts, 13.
“But we have shown that we have changed the world, one step at a time.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.