09/28/2012 09:52 EDT | Updated 10/02/2012 04:25 EDT

We Day 2012: Performers Jennifer Hudson, Nelly Furtado, Shawn Desman Rock The Air Canada Centre (PHOTOS)

Chris Dale

TORONTO -- The Air Canada Centre has always been a place for scoring goals, but for one day, the sports stadium becomes a place for inspiring goals. Thousands of students traded in an early morning in the classroom for a star-studded performance at the ACC on Friday.

We Day Toronto is the first of eight youth empowerment events spread all across Canada celebrating social change, active citizenship and leaving a positive impact. The star-studded event is an initiative by Free The Children, a Canadian NGO focused on improving the lives of children worldwide. Now entering its fifth year, this year's We Day came with a five-word theme for Canada's youth: "we can be the change" (and AOL Canada's video booth is giving participants to chance to explain just how they'll do that).

It's just one of the messages Free The Children founders, Marc and Craig Kielburger, hope to leave with the expected 20,000 in attendance. But the duo of Canadian philanthropists won't be alone. Joining them are actor Martin Sheen, expected Liberal-leader candidate Justin Trudeau and former Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire.

The day kicked off with a performance from Toronto's Shawn Desman performing his most recent hit "Nobody Does It Like You." He was later joined by Canadian rockers Headley, dropping a two song set while Nelly Furtado got the crowd jumping with her hit "Big Hoops". We Day is set to wrap up with a two song set from Grammy and Academy Award winner, Jennifer Hudson.

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