Be kind, be brave: 5,000 students hear inspiring messages at Empowerment Day 2019
May 3, 2019
GUELPH, Ontario – On Thursday May 2, 5,000 Upper Grand District School Board students packed the Sleeman Centre in Guelph for the 5th annual Empowerment Day.
Empowerment Day was created in 2015 by students from the Drayton Heights Public School Student Council. DHPS Student Council decided to continue this annual event and each year invites students in grades 5 to 8 from all over the UGDSB.
The theme for this year’s event was I CAN. I WILL. WATCH ME. Empowerment Day’s special guests had a number of messages to add, focusing on the importance of being kind, of persevering in the face of challenges, of following your dreams and forging your own path.
Watch the 2019 Empowerment Day video below!
The day began with world traveller and host of Netflix’s The Kindness Diaries, Leon Logothetis. He explained that through his life experiences, the most important lesson he has learned is that kindness can change the world and can change someone’s life. “Everyone in this room matters,” he told the students. That means, he said, that the person next to you matters, the person sitting in front of you and behind you matters. Everyone matters.
Trisha Prabhu talked about her work in combating cyberbullying – work that she began when she was just 14 years old. Prabhu is the creator of ReThink technology, which prompts youth to pause and think before sending messages online, as when teens are given a second chance to rethink what they post on social media, they most often will.
Throughout the day, Canadian musician Stacey Kay and her band had the thousands of students out of their seats dancing. Stacey injected not only fantastic music and energy into the building but also her personal stories of being told to act or look a certain way in order to make it in the industry – and the power she gained from not conforming to other people’s expectations.
Canadian hockey great Hayley Wickenheiser shared her experience of growing up as a young girl, wanting to play hockey in a male-dominated sport. She spoke fondly of the women who paved the way in the sport and had the arena whisper quiet as she retold hockey tales of Olympics bouts playing against “those Americans.”
To close the day, wheelchair basketball star Patrick Anderson shared his story of overcoming obstacles. After losing his legs when he was a child, Patrick discovered wheelchair basketball and after years of hard work got to the stage where he was instrumental in propelling Team Canada to four Paralympic championships. He talked about what it felt like to be different growing up and urged students to treat each other with kindness. He also spoke about his love of wheelchair basketball and of the importance of adaptive sports, creating opportunities so that everyone can play.
Anderson and his wife Anna Paddock, who form the band The Lay Awakes, played the final song of the day.
Thank you to the students and staff from Drayton Heights PS for another incredible event and to all those who helped make Empowerment Day possible. A special thank you to Empowerment Day sponsors including the Optimist Clubs of the UGDSB area, Copernicus, RBC, Danby Canada and the UGDSB.