Choir! Choir! Choir! builds fun! fun! fun! at 10th annual Empowerment Day

GUELPH – It was déjà vu all over again at the 10th annual Empowerment Day at the Sleeman Centre on May 2.

Teacher and organizer Andy Speers hinted ahead of time that there would be at least one returning guest for the anniversary event and students were treated to four returning entertainers – dancer Luca Patuelli, singer Stacey Kay, singer-songwriter Peter Katz, and Choir! Choir! Choir!, a group that turns the audience into a choir.

Over 5,000 students filled the Sleeman Centre for the event, which is hosted by the Upper Grand District School Board with community sponsorship.

It was Upper Grand students at Drayton Heights Public School that first hosted the event 10 years ago and Speers, a teacher at Elora Public School, and his students have kept the tradition going.

It was a wild and raucous scene on Thursday.

Students were excited to be there and sang, danced, cheered and listened as guest artists shared their talent and stories of their trials and ultimately, of their success.

Patuelli took to the stage to share his message with students and show off his dance skills. He spoke to students about being a dreamer and how it’s normal and okay if all your dreams don’t come true.

Dreams change with each accomplishment and help to shape the people we become, he said.

Kay had students singing and dancing along as she shared her songs and messages about body positivity and loving yourself.

Katz talked about vulnerability and how being vulnerable – on stage or off – makes you stronger.

By being vulnerable, “incredible things can happen,” he said. “We grow. And it reveals the things you care about most.”

The students greeted Choir! Choir! Choir! like they were rock stars, with thundering applause and deafening screams.

The group famously gets the audience singing and students belted out their parts with enthusiasm.

They got a wave going through the stands and waved their cellphone flashlights above their heads like Bic lighters from yesteryear.

Speers said the intent of the event is to let students and teachers know they have the power to make positive differences within their communities and beyond.

That requires stepping outside their comfort zones, and that’s what happened at the event, he said.

“Students were so energized at the event,” he said. “I hope they can take that energy and do something positive with it. 

“Students are so fearful of failure and judgement that it limits their true potential.

“At Empowerment Day many students took chances and were dancing and singing alongside their peers, and for once didn’t worry about judgement because they were all in it together.”

Speers credits his student team, the Elora Public School Students Create Change group, for all its hard work – from set up, to welcoming students from other schools, to being backstage managers, to some students speaking on stage as emcees. 

“They really stepped up to produce a special event and I’m so proud of them,” Speers said.

Speers also thanked the following sponsors:

  • Impact Sponsor – Skyline;
  • Legacy Sponsor – the Optimist Clubs of the UGDSB area;
  • the Mocherie Family;
  • the Rotary Club of Centre Wellington;
  • the Rotary Club of Fergus-Elora;
  • RLB Chartered Accountants;
  • Brentwood Livery Limo Service;
  • Fergus Legion Branch 275; and
  • the Upper Grand District School Board.