What does it look like when 16,000 students committed to social change come together?
It looks like We Day.
The second annual We Day California was held at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., to celebrate students who took action for local and global causes to create change. Founded by Craig and Marc Kielburger, We Day looks to empower youth to lead through service.
Speakers and performers – from Colbie Caillat to the Kid President to Spencer West – took the stage to congratulate the students on their accomplishments, while also motivating them to continue their good work in communities around the world.
DE Justin Tuck, WR James Jones and CB TJ Carrie participated in We Day, taking the stage to introduce amazingly inspirational speakers. Tuck introduced Ezra Frech, a nine-year-old, who has overcome an above-knee amputation and a complicated surgery that allows him use of his left hand to become an impressive athlete. Jones took the stage with Hannah Alper, a 12-year old activist who was taking part in her 20th We Day. Carrie introduced J.R. Martinez – an Army veteran injured by an improvised explosive device, who has become a motivational speaker, actor and winner of Dancing with the Stars.
Each of the players was honored to take the stage with the inspirational speakers. "I've learned so much that he loves and has a passion for doing this," Carrie said about Martinez. "It's been great to have the opportunity to personally meet him and sit down and talk to him about his experience and how much, and how important, this is for him to do these type of events. To see so much passion from a guy like that who's been through so much and has found strength in his life to continue to provide an opportunity for kids to believe in, it's a wonderful experience."
DE Justin Tuck, WR James Jones and CB TJ Carrie participated in We Day California.
Jones worked with a We Day pro. "Man, Hannah is the star of the show. Hannah is unbelievable. She is two-feet tall, but she packs a big punch, a lot of confidence," said Jones. "She gets up on that stage and she's a professional. She enjoys giving back. She's been to Africa. She's been to India. She's been all over just helping people, trying to spread the message of her life. I'm honored to be up there with her. She keeps saying she's honored to be up there with me, but I'm honored to be up there with her and be able to let the kids know what she's all about."
Jones is no stranger to reaching out to his community and We Day was another opportunity to make an impact. "It's just a passion that you've got to have for helping your community," said Jones. "The way I grew up, the things that I've been through, I have a passion to give back and be able to change some kids' lives and that's what We Day is all about, being able to reach out to kids, change kids' lives and let kids know that it's okay to get out there and help and be a bigger part of your community."
Tuck introduced Frech, who after spending the morning with Tuck, is a new-found Raiders fan. Frech told his story to the We Day audience, capturing their attention with his inspirational speech. "I have some very visible differences. I was born without my left knee and shin bone and I only had one finger on my left hand. Every day I face new challenges in dealing with my disability," Frech told the crowd. "When I was two, I had my lower leg amputated and my big toe transplanted to my left hand. It took 15 hours of surgery under microscope. The doctors had to attach nerves smaller than a width of hair and they had to connect arteries, tendons, muscles, all so that my new finger could work. But when they were done, it changed everything. I didn't just gain a thumb, I gained a second finger. Think about how much you use your thumb. Without it, you wouldn't be able to pick up a pencil or throw a ball. With my new thumb, my hand went from 10 percent to 80 percent functionality."
He continued, "The leg I have now, it's a carbon flex foot, some people call it a blade runner, but I call it my cheetah leg. It works almost like a spring so that the energy I push down on it is returned to me to help me jump. The cheetah is the fastest land animal on earth and with this leg I was able to set seven national records."
Not only has Frech overcome many challenges, but he is using his experiences to inspire a whole generation of people. That is the theme of We Day - kids making a difference.
"I think it's very important to give them that type of platform, that type of voice, to have opportunities to give back. What I've learned from that, they do a better job of it than we do. They're more passionate about it than we are," said Tuck. "I think We Day is doing a great job of getting these kids involved and it's leading them to be better people, better adults, and that's going to be a complete positive change for our future."
One of the most impressive parts of We Day is the ability of each person to inspire others, no matter their age or background.
Carrie was motivated by all of the kids in the audience and on the stage. "It honestly makes me feel like I need to step up my game," said Carrie. "It makes me rethink how much I can continually do to help the younger generation of kids because you see these kids so young providing such powerful speeches to other kids and it really makes you to start believe in yourself. I'm in a position, or we're in a position, to help just as much. Allowing them to continue to believe in themselves and allow them to continue to provide the resource of how great they can be has been a beautiful story to see."
We Day shows the capabilities of the next generation.
"All of us, in order to make this world the place we want it to be, we all have to have a part, whether that's a huge part or a small part," said Tuck.
The kids at We Day are a huge part.