I caught up with Hannah Alper, a 5th grader who is currently on tour as a youth speaker for We Day, an educational event put on by international charity Free The Children that encourages young people to participate in local and global charity and change.
Suzanne Raga: How did you prepare for your We Day speech, and how do you feel about speaking in front of such huge audiences?
Hannah Alper: I’ve spent a lot of time rehearsing my speech at home, with my mentors from Free The Children and with my friend and partner, Vishal. We just finished We Day Vancouver and I’m not nervous at all anymore to get on stage. The energy from the crowd is amazing, I could feel the power of ‘we’ and I feel so good up there with the support that I have.
There’s some great speakers and performers this year like the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, Darren Criss from Glee, and Martin Luther King III. Who are you most looking forward to hearing?
There are so many great speakers and performers at every We Day. I love hearing Molly Burke and Spencer West speak because they really inspire me and so many of the youth at every We Day. They have both overcome obstacles to achieve great things.
You’ve interviewed cool people like Jian Ghomeshi and activists like Craig Kielburger and Severn Cullis-Suzuki. Who else would you love to interview one day for Call Me Hannah?
I would love to interview Malala. She is a big role model for me and for so many young people all over the world. My speech at We Day is about Malala – I share her story. I feel very honoured to tell her story and I also talk about the ways that I relate to her and how she inspires me.
You’ve said school always come first before anything else you do. What tips can you give to kids who need help balancing academics/homework with their extracurricular pursuits?
School always comes first. When Marc Kielburger invited me to go ‘on tour’ with We Day, he made me promise that I would keep up with my school work. We just finished We Day in Vancouver and Craig Kielburger sat down with me to make sure that I was on top of my school work. My teachers and Principal have been very supportive and have sent me work so that I can keep up with my class.
I’ve been doing my math homework on the road and I have also been practicing my French too. I think that extra-curricular activities are important, but not more important than school. This is Free The Children’s year of Education. There are millions of kids all over world that don’t have the opportunity to go to school. I am very aware of how lucky I am to go to school and I don’t take it for granted.
That’s great you do karate! I did it too and am a black belt. Does doing karate help you in other areas of your life?
Karate is awesome. I’ve been doing it for three years and have my purple-advanced belt. Karate helps me in a lot of ways – it helps me to focus, be disciplined, and be confident.
I read your review of Disney’s Teen Beach Movie. What do you think about older music-themed movies like Camp Rock or Never Say Never?
Movies and music are two of my favourite things, so I especially love when they are put together. Never Say Never is really different from movies like Camp Rock or Teen Beach Movie because it really showed a lot about Justin Bieber and what his life is like. I liked getting to see so much of what it’s like for him being on tour and how hard he works. I also really liked to see him with his friends and family just hanging out together.
What are your favorite…books, subject in school, and after school snacks?
I read a lot – all different kinds of books. Suspense, mystery, action, fantasy and biographies. Right now I’m reading Malala’s autobiography, I Am Malala, and I like learning about her and her life in her own words.
My favourite subject in school is English – I like to read and do book reports and I also like to write stories. My favourite after school snack is apple slices, cheese and crackers.
Why is it so important to empower and motivate young people to take positive action?
You are never too young to make a difference in the world. When I say the world, I mean locally and globally. There are things that we can all do to make a difference in our neighbourhoods and communities…You can participate in a campaign like Free The Children’s We Scare Hunger and collect non-perishable food to donate to a local food bank in your community, you can learn and share information about what you care about – maybe it’s the environment, or animals, or homelessness or poverty. You’re never too young to care about the world around you and we can all do something to make it a better place for the people and animals that we live with.