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Ellie Goulding, Malala Yousafzai and Al Gore to headline youth empowerment day

Pop star Ellie Goulding will take the stage with children's rights activist Malala Yousafzai, former US vice-president and climate change campaigner Al Gore and actor Clive Owen at the UK's first We Day event on March 7.

The line-up for the day-long show which will take place at Wembley Arena, London, was announced today in front of students at the Paddington Academy, who were then treated to a surprise performance by singer Sam Callahan, former X Factor finalist.

We Day is an event which brings together celebrities – such as Ms Goulding (pictured) – and speakers to encourage students to become involved in "making a difference" locally and globally. It is an initiative from charity Free the Children, which was co-founded by Canadian Craig Kielburger when he was 12 years old.

We Day is free to attend, but schools must earn their tickets by committing to take part in the year-long school citizenship programme We Act. The charity asks that schools support one local and one global cause of their choice. 

"When I was 12 years old," Mr Kielburger, now 31, told the audience this morning, "I saw a story in the newspaper about a boy who had escaped from slavery in Pakistan. He then valiantly spoke out about it and was killed for doing so.

"I took the newspaper into school and said to the class: 'we have to do something'."

His group of friends started off with cake sales and car washing. Their efforts caught the attention of Oprah Winfrey and, to date, more than 2.3 million young people have been involved in volunteering through Free the Children.

Free the Children has been working in the UK since 2010; schools that sign up to We Act are offered speakers for assemblies, support for teachers and students and curriculum-linked resources

Students at Paddington Academy have already been active in their communities. Yassine Abdul-Wahid, 13, spoke today about how when his family first arrived from Iraq, five of them had lived in two rooms in a basement flat. He had joined a youth club and started campaigning on the issue of overcrowded housing. He said: "Age doesn't exclude you from being passionate. If there is something you want changed, age shouldn't stop you."

Speaking to the TES, Mr Kielburger said: "Making a difference isn't cool. A lot of kids are making a difference and We Day makes it cool. It makes them part of a big community, who are excited about doing good things. We want people to be excited about social action and we bring together musical stars, Olympic stars and speakers to do that." 

The UK event, which will be held at Wembley Arena in London, is expected to attract 12,000 people from 400 schools. It will also be streamed live on the TES website and aol.


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