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There is an ongoing discussion about the next generation of students.

Whether in PTA meetings or at the dinner table, all too often students are dubbed the “social media generation.” However, this generation is plugged into what is going on around the world more than any generation before it and are poised to stand up and make a difference.

On March 26, over 16,000 students from California filled the Oracle Arena. But they didn’t show up to watch the Golden State Warriors. They earned a ticket to We Day, a celebration of their hard work volunteering in our community and in communities around the world.

We Day was created by Craig Kielburger. When he was 12 years old, he took a stand against child labor and banded with his peers to create Free The Children. They are now an international charity and educational partner, working to empower youth to be agents of change.

In the tech industry, it is easy to see that young people are on the front wave of innovation. But the youth movement extends well beyond the tech community as new tools have broken down the barriers of communication around the world. Students in the Bay Area are able to follow local and global issues and are rising to the call to action to help others reach a better way of life.

I work with civic leaders and the communities they serve to help find solutions to their biggest challenges. People often ask me how we can help motivate young people to participate in the community.

I believe that students can be the spark of change in our world. However, we need to do a better job of creating engaging programs that help students develop confidence in taking action, learn new skills that lead to employability, and leverage the power of technology to help solve problems.

That is why Microsoft made a commitment to bring We Day to California through 2016. Microsoft and Free The Children share the same goal: empowering youth to be a positive force in the world. We are able to support this effort through Microsoft YouthSpark, our company-wide, global initiative to create opportunities for 300 million youth by 2015.

Celebrities like J. Cole, Selena Gomez, Orlando Bloom, and Magic Johnson attended the event to support students like Aaron Tushabe and Josh Okello. They spoke at We Day about a portable device they created that can report critical information on fetal health.

They tackled a problem in their local community in Uganda and are now able to help high-risk mothers in rural areas with better access to prenatal care. We want to help every student in the Bay Area and throughout California have an opportunity to participate in programs like this that encourage community involvement.

If your student didn’t earn their ticket to We Day, check out the program to learn how they can join their peers and participate in this incredible youth movement.

Dan’l Lewin is corporate vice president, technology and civic engagement, at Microsoft.

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