WE Day Illinois celebrates students who serve

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Hundreds of outstanding students were be celebrated in Chicago Thursday. They work tirelessly to make a difference in their communities. WE Day is a chance to recognize their efforts.

WE Day Illinois is an assembly for service-minded students who have earned their way into Allstate Arena. Nearly 100,000 students across the state take part in WE Schools initiatives. About 15,000 thousand of them attended Thursday's event.

Some of the projects that helped students to earn a seat at WE Day Illinois include food drives and implementing school-wide recycling initiatives. They raised money for global causes and put in hours of volunteer work in their communities.

Their reward will be to meet celebrities who aim to inspire, including Paula Abdul and J.R. Martinez, Ciara, Kardinal Offishal and Nico and Vinz.

"It's so powerful, and they give the kids such a cool opportunity by coming see us perform, and all the great speakers, and to have a good experience and kind of give them a pat on the back for all that they're doing," said Ciara.

"The part that you play in being a part of a team is important, and you can lift everyone else up because it's contagious," Abdul said.

"Really teaching young people to take responsibility for their own lives and to do something for others, and that fits right in line with what my dad and his team and my mom advocated," said Martin Luther King, III.

"You don't have to be what society believes you should be. You can break outside that. You can be successful. You have a voice. You can bring something to the world," Martinez said.

Last year, students and educators crossed paths with some of their favorite stars, including Selena Gomez, Magic Johnson, Common and Jennifer Hudson.

Spencer West, WE Day host and Free the Children ambassador, lost his legs when he was 5. But he overcame many obstacles and achieved a great feat later in life. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

West has now spoken at dozens of WE Day events, inspiring students to follow their dreams, even when they seem impossible.

West said his goal this year is to remind kids that they are not alone in the world - that they can meet challenges head-on and conquer them. West said experiences like these are great opportunities for kids to learn more about themselves and to teach adults something new.

"We soak up some inspiration too, from these students, to hear their stories and the work that they've done," West said.
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