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Young people have missed out on so much at this school year’s end — awkward dances, tearful embraces and group photos, yearbooks passing freely through crowded halls. We created this special section in part to make up for missed proms and cancelled class trips, a sign of our commitment to youth mental health at this difficult time.

The 2020 school year has been like no other, challenging us all in unprecedented ways. More than ever, we need to draw strength from the shameless idealism young Canadians continue to show with their actions. We must remain dedicated to celebrating students and teachers who have made lasting impacts this school year — and who continue to prove that we really are in this together.

Working with school boards across Canada and in each region, we are honoured to bring closure to the academic year in a powerful way for both students and educators. These pages are part of WE Celebrate: Class of 2020, a week-long virtual coast-to-coast-to-coast road trip that kicked off during the last week of May to commemorate the social impacts of students. We’ve made online “stops” in Ontario, Atlantic Canada, Quebec, the Prairies, B.C. and Northern Canada with Facebook Live events featuring outstanding students and educators. The celebration culminates with its final stop — the biggest living-room party of the school year, which airs Saturday, June 6 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

The Saturday night broadcast will feature educational leaders, musicians, sports icons and celebrities, including host Lilly Singh, with special appearances by Selena Gomez, Natalie Portman, Shawn Mendes, Joe Jonas, Shay Mitchell, The Muppets, Meghan Trainor, Alessia Cara, Winnie Harlow, Drew Scott and Linda Phan, Johnny Orlando, Arkells, JP Saxe, Julia Michaels, P.K. Subban, Jacob Tremblay, Brett Kissel and so many more. A special thank you to RBC, TELUS, President’s Choice Children’s Charity, Facebook, The Globe and Mail and CTV, and especially to Bell Media president Randy Lennox for his vision for the broadcast.

Students made many sacrifices this year, but COVID-19 did not dampen their impact. In many cases it inspired them to take even more action! In this academic year alone, students in 7,000 WE Schools across Canada volunteered more than 12 million hours for nearly 8,000 causes all around the world, especially helping with COVID-19 causes. In the pages of this special section, we celebrate some of the outstanding initiatives of these students. We have also collected advice from industry leaders and inspirational figures to support students as they prepare for the future.

Years from now, when we look back on 2020, we hope we will find things changed for the better.

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At WE, we know it’s never been harder to be a parents or teachers, and we’ve heard you. To ease the burden, WE has leveraged our 25 years of experience building curriculum and working with hundreds of school boards and educational partners to create the WE Schools @home initiative, to provide families and K–12 students with daily lesson plans delivered right to parents’ inboxes. The lesson plans are age-appropriate, cost-free and easy to use, with the purpose of supporting students and also giving parents-turned-teachers peace of mind and hours back into their busy schedules. These offerings emphasize social-emotional learning for young people, including positive content to support their mental well-being. Our WE Schools @home resources will continue serving families during a summer without camps or special programs.

Also, this summer we will provide impactful new initiatives for students from kindergarten to post-secondary school. We are planning to help young people volunteer digitally, supporting non-profits and myriad causes. At WE.org you will find many opportunities and resources.

Years from now, when we look back on 2020, we hope we will find things changed for the better. We hope we’ll soon come to a turning point and double down on health care and support for essential workers and the elderly. Even in education, this crisis can be an opportunity. We can move past rote memorization and into social-emotional learning — teaching kids to manage their emotions and to show empathy — with frank discussions about mental well-being.

We must all remember that, while we are alone, we are alone together, and we will overcome this together. We hope that what children learn today will instill in them a sense of global solidarity. They can start by coming together to celebrate the change they have made so far.

Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger are the co-founders of the WE Movement, which includes WE Charity, ME to WE Social Enterprise and WE Day.


Content produced by WE. The Globe and Mail was not involved in its creation.