Maple Glen El­e­men­tary com­pletes ‘We Can’

Project based on UDHS alum’s song

Springfield Sun - - NEWS - By Linda Finarelli lfinarelli@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @lk­finarelli on Twit­ter

MAPLE GLEN >> Singer-song­writer Jesse Ruben has been to hun­dreds of schools in the United States and Canada, in­ter­act­ing with thou­sands of stu­dents while pro­mot­ing his We Can project. May 15 he came home.

Ruben, an Up­per Dublin High School Class of 2004 grad, spent the day at Maple Glen El­e­men­tary School for the cul­mi­na­tion of the school’s year­long 1,000 Hours of Ser­vice, which grew out of Ruben’s song “We Can.”

Af­ter run­ning the New York City Marathon in 2011, said Ruben, who now lives in Brook­lyn, N.Y., he wrote the song, which came out in 2012 and “spread by word of mouth.”

In 2013, he re­ceived an email from a teacher in Canada who said the song had in­spired both teach­ers and stu­dents to ac­com­plish a num­ber of com­mu­nity projects and asked him to visit and sing the song for the stu­dents in per­son. A mu­sic video cre­ated dur­ing the visit spread, and soon he was get­ting re­quests to visit other schools, he said.

“I de­vel­oped a pro­gram with some teach­ers and friends,” Ruben said. “It’s to en­cour­age stu­dents to get in touch with what is in­spir­ing to them.

“I’ve been do­ing it four years; it’s got­ten big­ger ev­ery year.”

The We Can Project, de­signed to be com­pleted over a se­mes­ter or school year, helps stu­dents “learn the im­por­tance of com­mit­ment, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, strate­gic plan­ning and fol­low through,” the web­site www. we­can­we­can­we­ says. The stu­dents “come away with con­fi­dence, lead­er­ship and a pro­found sense of ac­com­plish­ment.”

Two months ago, he said, “To­day Show” co-host Hoda Kotb heard his song dur­ing a spin class and aired the mu­sic video on the show, and then in­vited Ruben to ap­pear on the show, where he per­formed “We Can.”

As the 450 MGES stu­dents filed into the au­di­to­rium for an all-school con­cert, Ruben said, “Go­ing back to my com­mu­nity is even more mean­ing­ful.”

The point of the ser­vice­learn­ing pro­gram “is for stu­dents and teach­ers and staff to make a list of goals and ev­ery­one chooses one and puts it into ac­tion,” he said.

Among the ones adopted at Maple Glen this year were writ­ing let­ters to troops, book col­lec­tions, cards for can­cer pa­tients, cloth­ing and food col­lec­tions for the poor and el­derly, gath­er­ing items for the SPCA, and le­mon­ade stands to raise money for Run for Jenna, a fundraiser for an ed­u­ca­tional fund in mem­ory of the Maple Glen sec­ond-grader who died in Oc­to­ber af­ter be­ing struck by a ve­hi­cle.

Prin­ci­pal Tim Bick­hart said last year’s fifth-grade class sang “We Can” at the pro­mo­tion cer­e­mony, and in Au­gust he “chal­lenged teach­ers” to get stu­dents in­volved in do­ing things to help oth­ers, “which grew into the We Can ser­vice project.”

MGES mu­sic teacher Adam Brit­tain, who in­tro­duced the song to the school, in­vited Ruben to at­tend the cul­mi­nat­ing event.

Af­ter a hand­ful of stu­dents ex­plained what their ser­vice project was, Brit­tain ref­er­enced a com­ment on a video on Youtube of Ruben per­form­ing the song, quot­ing: “Af­ter 20 years of feel­ing un­com­fort­able in my own skin … I’m fi­nally let­ting that go be­cause ‘I can.’” Ruben per­formed sev­eral of his folk songs for the stu­dents, wrap­ping up with a sing-along of “We Can.” “I’ve been to hun­dreds of schools,” he said. “I’ve had so much fun to­day.”


Jesse Ruben per­forms for Maple Glen El­e­men­tary stu­dents at the cul­mi­na­tion of their We Can Project.


Jesse Ruben, cen­ter, joins the stu­dents at Maple Glen shout­ing “We Can.”

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