How did Count Me In come into existance?
In 2008, I was excited to start high school and get involved in clubs and councils. Surprisingly, I found most of my peers were focused on joining clubs simply to fulfill their required 40 hours of community service. I felt it was important to help shift other students’ perspectives so I proposed a motivational assembly to my principal. He was very supportive and encouraged me to plan an assembly on volunteerism. I thought I would seek out a motivational speaker to inspire students to get involved in the community. Shortly thereafter, educators at several other schools expressed interest in their students attending as well. I realized then that I had found a gap in the education system and began planning a much larger co-curricular event. I worked to secure my community theater and reached out to speakers and activists that fit my concept. I also sent hundreds of proposals to local companies in an effort to secure sponsorships. Through these efforts I was able to recruit 10 motivating speakers and raise the funds required to cover costs. What began as a small workshop for my own school had transformed into a full day fieldtrip attended by 400 students from 7 schools. That initial event was the first annual “Count Me In Conference”, which is the only entirely youth-run empowerment event of it’s kind in Canada. In it’s second year, the venue grew to accommodate an audience that tripled in size. Led by my dedicated team of student leaders, Count Me In, now a Federally Incorporated non-profit, has impacted students across Ontario and parts of Canada. I am proud to be leading a movement, which is creating tangible social change, while giving Canadian teens a new perspective on the charitable sector and a new desire to get involved.
Our most recent annual conference, held on May 1st in Ontario, united 1000 students and 30 Canadian charities. To date, over 2000 Ontario students representing multiple school boards have directly participated in our programs. We have reached out to over 1,000,000 people with the broadcasting support of GlobalTV, CTV, RogersTV and various other media outlets. During our first year we had over 400 students participate in our programming, and that number nearly tripled our second year with over 1000 participants. We are now on track to have 1,500 students participate in Count Me In Conference 2013 on April 17th.
The Count Me In Model
We have found, implemented and proven a method that effectively motivates students to get involved, and also takes the next step towards tangible action. We inspire students with a dynamic lineup of iconic speakers, entertainers and young activist who present on stage at our event. Then directly following this, students participate in the “Count Me In Afterparty Charity Marketplace”, where they mingle with charity representatives and find community service opportunities that are right for them. There, they are able to immediately register as volunteers and begin creating relationships with non-profits in their communities. We take pride in being the largest entirely youth-run program in Canada. We have approximately 20 high school student volunteers who run the organization year round, and over 100 additional teenage volunteers who help us execute our annual event.
What most inspires you to make this world a better place?
Mostly, I’m inspired when I see a young leader, whether it’s a young charity founder or teen philanthropist, or a student activist, or just a kid doing a good deed. Youth like these who have a drive to do good in our world inspire me to keep doing everything that I do.
What motivated you to start Count Me In?
I think I expected high school to be filled with teens who had the activist mentality, and were ready to reach out into the community. I was shocked that more of my peers weren’t interested in volunteering or making a difference. At first I was just going to hold a school assembly, but I got so much support from friends, family and the school administration, that it turned into a national event that is now a yearly field trip held in Ontario.
What advice do you have for young people your age?
I really believe that age is just a number. Anyone can do anything if they set their mind to it. The number one piece of advice that I would share is don’t be afraid to set a goal. Setting goals is like making a promise to yourself that you have to keep. It’s the starting point for all your planning. Your goal let’s you know where you need to go and what you need to do. But I can’t stress this next point enough….don’t ever limit your goals. Dream big because there’s power within you. Be ambitious, and refuse to quit.
Count Me In! Conference – Who is the event for?
Students in grades 8-12 from across Ontario are invited to participate in Count Me In Conference with their schools, as a field trip.
Teachers can register their classes/clubs/councils online at cmimovement.com
If you are not from Ontario or don’t fit in the age range, you can catch all the action online during our National Webcast Special! This will air online approximately 3 weeks following the event.
Other ways to get involved:
To get in touch with Shane and learn more about Count Me In Initiative please check the links below. It is a world changing
Count Me In: Designed to inspire, motivate and empower today’s youth to become leaders in their community, the main goal of CMI is to raise awareness of local and global issues, and volunteer opportunities. Count Me In Conference is a one-day event promoting volunteerism, and celebrating the power of youth to create a positive impact on the world!