WE Day Illinois celebrates young people making a difference

ROSEMONT, Ill. (WLS) -- Thousands of students from across Illinois attended the annual WE Day Illinois event Wednesday at Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

The annual celebration is for young people who work to serve their community. Stars including Stedman Graham, singer Andra Day and astronaut Buzz Aldrin attended the event to entertain and encourage students to continue their good work.

"Being innovated, that's what we as Americans do quite well and I'm trying to teach people to try and do that and at the same time whenever you teach someone something you have to know something about it and then you give it away for them to hold on to it," Aldrin said.

"To be able to kind of create a grassroots movement among young people that's the answer to empowerment around our country," said Graham, an author, businessman and speaker who is Oprah Winfrey's long-time partner.

About 15,000 students earned a ticket to the party after they completed their local and global service action. Their teachers then helped decide who gets to come to Allstate.

Students said they enjoyed the show, but it was also a learning experience.

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Stedman Graham attended the WE Day Illinois event on Wednesday.

"It's taught me about how to change the world and how I should be the future of tomorrow and change Chicago violence," said Ola Arogundade, a 7th grader at Perspectives Middle Academy.

The WE schools program is in its third year. WE Day Illinois Director Francie said 700 Illinois schools participated this year and 500 of those schools will be represented Wednesday at the celebration.

Richards said she loves to see the enthusiasm kids have for serving others. She said youth enjoy feeling like they are part of the greater youth movement making a difference in Chicago.

Griffen Saul, a senior at Lincoln Park high School, is a youth co-chair for WE Day Illinois. He said he got involved after researching WE Day co-founder Craig Kielburger. Saul said he was impressed by how someone so young could make such a big difference.

Saul started WE Are Able, an organization that empowers young people with disabilities, and their families, to improve the quality of their lives. Saul said he was inspired by his father, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis before he was born.

WE Are Able held three events in the last few months, including one on the International Day of Disabled Persons, where students took a pledge to understand what it's like to have a physical disability and learned proper disability etiquette.

Saul said he can't thank WE Day Illinois enough for what he has learned in his time with the program. He said he learned how to take action, how to get involved and how to network, which are skills every young person can use to make a positive impact on their community.

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Spencer West, author and speaker, was one of thousands who attended the WE Day in Illinois event on Wednesday at Allstate Arena.

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THe We Day Illinois celebration begins Wednesday morning at Allstate Arena.

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Griffen Saul, a senior at Lincoln Park High School in Chicago, got invovled with We Day and started the We Are Able organization.

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