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Yellowknife middle-schoolers surprised with trip to Edmonton for WE Day

Some students at William MacDonald Middle School in Yellowknife got a surprise on Thursday.

Thirty-three students involved in the school's WE team will be going to Edmonton

Members of William MacDonald's WE Team try to solve a puzzle revealing all 33 of them will be heading to Edmonton at the end of October. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

When the group of middle-schoolers shuffled into their classroom at William MacDonald in Yellowknife Thursday morning, they were expecting another meeting of their WE team — a group that works on projects to help the community. 

Students were met with a group of journalists, a TV camera, two WestJet employees, a jumble of letters individually printed on cardboard, and a bunch of blank spaces on their whiteboard. 

The game was simple: arrange the letters on the board to figure out a special announcement. 

Students try to figure out which letters spell out their surprise on the whiteboard. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

After ten minutes of chaos, the answer was finally spelled out for them — every student in the room would be going to Edmonton.

The students were hoping to go to WE Day in Alberta at the end of the month. It's a gathering where celebrities and change makers inspire thousands of kids to make a difference in their communities. Past speakers include Selena Gomez, activist Malala Yousafzai, Prince Harry, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

It only looked like some of the group could go. With a donation from WestJet, twelve more students were able to tag along. Now 33 students — including seven graduates who still help out with the club — are heading to the event.

Students start to piece together what the message is. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

'I really wanted to go'

"I was determined this year that I would go," said Grade 7 student Amelie Legere. She became interested in the  after her school put on a "mini WE Day" last year. 

Amelie Legere, 12, says she was determined to go to WE Day on October 22 in Edmonton. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

"I was really intrigued, and I really wanted to help."

Grade 7 student Jack Fox said he's excited to meet other clubs at WE Day, and learn what other schools do to stop bullying. 

Jack Fox says he's excited the whole team gets to go. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

"It affects people's learning…. If they don't learn, they'll have a harder time getting through life.… It's just mean," he said. "Why do people do it?"

Raising future do-gooders

William MacDonald's WE team is running several projects, including recycling programs, collecting canned food while Trick-or-Treating, and donating Christmas food hampers to families in need. 

Mélanie Parisella is the teacher in charge of the group. She said the goal of the WE team is simple: give time to others. 

"People that help each other [feel] better," she said. "Their mental health is better and it feel[s] really good to help others, so we want our kids to grow up in a world that is better for them and their children."

WE Day in Edmonton is on October 22.

Mélanie Parisella says WE team's goal is to give time to others. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

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