Students, celebs count down to ‘We Day’

Photos by Gabriella Gamboa/SFBay

BURTON HIGH SCHOOL — More than 700 screaming school-aged children greeted Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom Wednesday morning as he helped announce a star-studded cast performing in March at the first arena-sized event of its kind in California.

We Day, an event which promotes a culture of community service promises to bring 16,000 students from 400 schools together at Oracle Arena March 26.

Students cannot buy their tickets, but rather must earn them through community service.

Flanked by celebrities from sports and entertainment, Newsom welcomed students gathered at Philip and Sala Burton Academic High School in Visitacion Valley for Wednesday’s announcement:

“In a world with so much negativity … you guys are on the front lines of giving people hope, giving people faith that we can solve big problems. Without energy and enthusiasm you can’t change the world. Your voice matters.”

The lineup announced by Free the Children co-founder Craig Kielburger includes Selena Gomez, Seth Rogen, Magic Johnson, Orlando Bloom, Martin Luther King III and Martin Sheen and Lauren Miller.

Other performers include Jesse Giddings, The Tenors, Vocal Rush, Culture Shock, Youth Speaks and the Oakland Youth Orchestra.

Students can earn their tickets to We Day by taking action on local and global causes of their choice as part of a year-long program called We Act.

We Act is designed to enhance a school’s existing service learning program by providing free educational materials and helping with student-led campaigns.

We Day and We Act are sponsored and organized by Free the Children, an international charity founded in 1995 to help young people become agents of social change.

High school junior Kitty Lei — who helped collect 250 toys for a toy drive as well raise $800 to help build a school in China — said she hopes to apply to U.C. Berkeley and Cornell University in the fall and major in business management:

“We’re really looking forward to We Day. We want to do it because it makes us feel good to help others.”

During the 2013-14 school year 150 schools collected 44,272 pounds of food during Free the Children’s We Scare Hunger campaign.

More than 84 schools joined the Free the Children’s We Create Change Campaign to help build schools in foreign countries.

This year’s campaign culminates in the first ever California We Day event, co-sponsored by Microsoft, Allstate and Unilever. Registration is open until February 14.

Students like youth speaker Drew Descourouez said they’ve grown through programs like Free the Children and We Act and are impatient to make a difference in their community.

“Speak from the heart and grow with what you found. Move from me to we to change the world.”