How The WE CAN Project Touched My Students
by Kristen LaScola
My name is Kristen LaScola, and I am a 3rd grade teacher at Hudson City Schools in Hudson, Ohio.
I first came across Jesse Ruben when a family member sent me one of Jesse’s most inspirational songs, “We Can.” Being a musician myself, I have a great appreciation for music and always use music as a tool to help my students learn. I teach one song per week in my classroom, and after watching Jesse’s video, I thought it had a great message, and I knew that we had to learn it!
My kids loved the song and asked me if we could write to Jesse to see if he would come visit our school. We immediately wrote an email to Jesse asking him questions about his life, his music, and the initiative of “We Can”. Jesse responded to us within minutes, saying that he would love to come visit. The kids were thrilled. I presented the idea to my principal, who also loved the concept, and I worked with my PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) to raise the money for Jesse’s visit.
My students created “We Can” projects focused on how they could change the world in their own unique way. They created projects having to do with helping the homeless, helping endangered animals, and even creating a dodge ball league to encourage kids to be more active. The projects allowed them to come up with an idea of how they, 8 or 9 year olds living in Hudson, Ohio, could change the world and make it a better place. It helped them to see that they could make a difference, no matter how big or small.
When Jesse came to visit, each classroom presented their ideas to him, and we held a “We Can” sing-along. Jesse took the time to visit each classroom, share his story, and challenge the students to think bigger and achieve great things. This was the most profound moment of Jesse’s visit, as the students were able to see this great guy, who was not only a musician but also a phenomenal human being, relate to them, and help them to see, if only for a moment, that they could achieve something bigger than themselves. I realize these are young students, and these big global ideas of changing the world and helping others may seem like difficult concepts to a 3rd grader, but I promise you, after Jesse’s visit, they weren’t. They got it.
This visit took place two years ago. Jesse made a return visit last year, and we opened the program up to our 3rd, 4th and 5th graders, reaching over 1,200 students. Jesse performed a concert for students and families to share in the experience together. This year we hope to include the entire district – about 4,800 students – in the initiative.
When I stop to think about the impact Jesse Ruben and his “We Can” initiative has had and will continue to have in our small city of Hudson, Ohio, I get goose bumps. There is no limit to how powerful this program can be. I still receive emails from parents of students I had two years ago letting me know the profound influence Jesse and the “We Can” program had on their child. Whether students created a plan to help an endangered species, constructed a new playground, or simply decided to make an effort to be more kind to those around them, they realized that they could make a difference.
This program isn’t something that just anyone can carry out. Jesse has a passion for it, believes in it with his whole heart, and recognizes that it is special and unique. Sometimes I don’t think he even realizes the impact he has had on the schools, teachers, students, principals, districts, or even the cities he visits. I am excited to take this further at Hudson, and I am thrilled to simply be a part of this experience.
I came into education to make a difference and to help kids believe that if they put their minds to something, even just a small something, that anything is possible. The “We Can” program has changed me as an educator, and it has changed my students in a positive way. If we have other districts who join in the “We Can” experience and broaden the young minds of our youth, there is no telling how we can change the world for the better.
For more information on the WE CAN Project log on to: http://www.WeCanWeCanWeCan.com
image attribution flickr user sparkfunelectronics