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Third General Session

Third General Session: Helping to Change the World

As 2014 Conference attendees concluded a full weekend of professional development opportunities, they were treated to a motivational send-off on Sunday afternoon by social entrepreneur Craig Kielburger.

Kielburger’s words encouraged guests to seek out and create change locally, nationally and worldwide, with the goal of “making the world a better place for everybody.” His dedication and passion to charitable service for numerous causes offered a fitting conclusion to the three-day event for thousands of Illinois school leaders.

Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA) President Scott Kuffel, superintendent of Geneseo CUSD 228, acknowledged those in attendance for their commitment to public education during his opening remarks. “We have representatives from 700 plus districts that attend [conference]. And we have many outstanding leaders here who are recognized throughout the state and the nation,” Kuffel said.  

Three of those individuals were honored for their service during the third general session. Mary Lou Sender, of Wheaton Warrenville CUSD 200, received the 2014 Holly Jack Outstanding Service Award . The Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA) recognized Rochester CUSD 3A Superintendent Thomas Bertrand as the 2015 Illinois Superintendent of the Year . And Grant Park District 6 Board President David Dickson was the recipient of the 2014 Thomas Lay Burroughs Award , honoring the state’s top school board president.

Service remained a cornerstone theme of the final general session of the 2014 Joint Annual Conference. Craig Kielburger repeatedly stressed service projects as an important component of positive student outcomes, with his focus to drive involvement through entertaining and thoughtful outreach initiatives that empower the world youth.

Craig Kielburger and his brother Marc founded the international children’s charity, Free The Children. The brothers have also created the youth empowerment event “We Day” and the social enterprise, “Me to We.” These organizations provide service learning programs to more than 7,000 schools in North America and the United Kingdom, building 650 school houses, and providing clean water to over 1 million people in developing countries.

Craig began his mission at the age of 12 after reading a newspaper article about a boy from Pakistan who was sold into labor to cover his parents’ debt. The child escaped, but was murdered at 12 years of age. After speaking to his class about the story, 11 fellow students pledged to join him in the fight against child labor. This began Free The Children.

A few years after starting the organization, the Kielburger family received a call from the Dalai Lama, who was bringing together a worldwide meeting to influence change said the group lacked a representative for young people. Craig Kielburger was invited to join the group that was tasked with answering one question: “What is the single greatest challenge facing the world today?”

After much discussion on specific issues and causes, the Dalai Lama said that the single greatest challenge facing the world today is, “We are raising a generation of passive bystanders.”

Kielburger and the group concluded that educators and parents are integral to solving this problem.

“We must inspire young people to tackle all those challenges,” Kielburger noted. “You think about the minds of kids; the teachable minds of kids. How they can be influenced.”

Kielburger went on to speak about the relevancy of what students learn. “If it is relevant, they want to learn more about it. Through service, students develop skills to succeed academically and in a career.”

Kielburger’s vision has expanded into accompanying social missions through the sister organizations of Me to We and We Day. Me to We is a philanthropic partnership that connects businesses to a social purpose. We Day is a movement of global youth that celebrates the actions of young people to help them redefine what is possible. It also rewards students and schools for positive action with a series of inspirational, large-scale events that feature renowned speakers and performers.

“We are making social change cool through music and entertainment. We want change in the world to be the coolest thing in the world. We want making a difference to be the coolest thing you can do. Kids are problem-solvers and dream-makers,” Kielburger stressed.

The first ever Illinois We Day will take place on April 30, 2015, at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont. School districts interested in participating in We Day activities can visit


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