The bell rings Wednesday morning and the long halls of RC Palmer secondary suddenly fill with buoyant teenagers, chatting their way to their lockers and next class, before eventually getting to the main gymnasium.
At the end of the hall, pounding music beats beckon and boom once the doors to the gym open. There's an overwhelming sea of pink T-shirts, as kids practice dance moves, talk or work together to prepare for the event.
The roughly 900 students including grades from feeder elementary schools have gathered to celebrate Palmer's mini We Day, featuring a motivational speech by Richmond's Rick Hansen.
"The fabric of this country is based on our youth," said Hansen, wearing a pink shirt of his own. "And to be able to be here, and take the time to say congratulations, you're doing a great job. We can overcome anything if we set our minds to it. Hopefully that'll make a difference and allow me to pay it forward."
Organized by the school's Global Network Club, the event set out to inspire students to get involved and promote change both within their communities and globally.
The club incorporated Hansen's themes of overcoming barriers, challenging oneself and promoting global connection and awareness into the rest of the mini We Day celebration.
This included a talk by Brenda Casey from ICEF about her work in Uganda. At the end of her speech, students presented her with a $5,000 cheque.
To pump up the crowd, the students first learned the We Day dance, and then watched the more advanced styling of the Junior Palmer Dance Troupe.
"A lot of us have been to the real We Day, so we tried to emulate the same kind of vibe," said Leny Ganacheva, a Grade 12 Global Network Club executive. "So it was upbeat, inspirational, just trying to teach youth that they can make the difference. They don't have to wait until they're older, they can do it right now."
The school is currently fundraising for a water project in Ecuador and a school in Uganda.
Shortly after the performances, the man in motion rolled through the crowd, high-fiving students as he made his way to the stage.
He spoke about moving past his spinal cord injury and prejudice to realize his dream of becoming an Olympic champion. He also talked of his Man in Motion World Tour to fundraise for spinal cord injury research.
"Probably one of the greatest inspirations for me out on the road was meeting young people," said Hansen. "They were free from any prejudice or bias and they saw a person who was out making a difference, they didn't see my disability."
After his speech, he took questions from the audience and handed out three Difference Maker Awards to two students, including Leny, and a teacher. In turn, the school donated $500 to the Rick Hansen Foundation.
"I was totally blown away by [Hansen's speech]," said Leny. "It totally matched what we wanted to express to the people at our We Day. It's why I'm part of the club, we can learn about the global community. There's a group together of like-minded people who want to do the same things and that way, we can do a lot more stuff."
The celebrations continued with dancing from the Senior Palmer Dance Troupe and other performances and presentations, all in an effort to bond the diverse crowd of students and expand their worldviews.
"My greatest challenge was my own internal barriers," Hansen responded to a student's question. "Sometimes it's your view that limits you. You need to move past these ideas because maybe you're the one causing the biggest challenge."
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