18,000 Minnesota kids went to a concert instead of school; teachers approve

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School buses at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center usually mean it's high school tournament time – but not Tuesday.

It was time for the annual event that rewards Minnesota school kids after a year of raising money and donating time for good causes.

The combination pep rally and concert known as WE Day is spreading around North America and has a solid foothold in Minnesota.

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Organizers of WE Day Minnesota told WCCO students in the past year have raised more than $1 million and donated 600,000 hours of time. Students take part in one local and one global service project.

Local examples include kids at Forest Lake High School holding a blanket drive for homeless people and students at Champlain Park High making more than 1,000 sandwiches to feed the hungry, the Pioneer Press says.

Speakers and singers from ages 17 to 86

WE Day offers kids a mixture of fun and inspiration. Musical acts provide some of the star power and this year's show included performances by Serena Ryder, OMI, and Olivia Holt among others. Jordan Smith, a former winner of The Voice, performed with the drumline from the Rosemount High School Marching Band.

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But non-musical guests were popular, too. One student told the Pioneer Press the highlight of the day was hearing from astronaut Buzz Aldrin, now 86, who described how being initially rejected by NASA made him even more determined to succeed.

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Also a hit was comedian and actress Lily Singh, who brought to WE Day her campaign to end girl-on-girl hate.

"When we band together, we can leave behind the negativity and achieve amazing things, " Singh says. She also partnered with WE Day to sell "Girl Love" bracelets with proceeds going to help girls in Kenya go to school.

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And for the keynote address, these young people heard from one of their own.

Jonah Stallman, 17, of Minnetonka already does public speaking with his father about how the post-Millennial generation – GenZ – is changing the workforce.

The Pioneer Press says Stillman's message to other young Minnesotans Tuesday was: “As we look to the future I want everyone to know that right here, right now, we are writing the future of Generation Z!”

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