MARC KIELBURGER (NJC ’95)
Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Free the Children and WE
An international development and youth empowerment organization
Marc Kielburger is a social entrepreneur and the co-founder of a family of organizations dedicated to the power of WE, a movement of people coming together to change the world. Along with his brother Craig Kielburger, Marc co-founded WE Charity, which provides a holistic development model called WE Villages, helping to lift more than one million people out of poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Back at home in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, WE Schools and WE Day provide comprehensive service learning programs to 10,000 schools, engaging 2.4 million young change-makers. Lastly, he is also the co-founder of WE, a pioneering social enterprise, the profits from which help sustain the work of the charitable organization.
An Neuchâtel Junior College alumni, Marc graduated from Harvard University with a degree in International Relations. He won a Rhodes Scholarship and completed a law degree from Oxford University. He has also received 10 honorary doctorates and degrees for his work in the fields of education and human rights. Marc is a New York Times bestselling author, who has published 8 books, as well as a nationally syndicated columnist. He is the recipient of many honors, including the Order of Canada, and was selected by the World Economic Forum as one of the world’s Young Global Leaders. Marc was also recently inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame for his humanitarian efforts and his work to empower youth to change the world.
“Sometimes you don’t fully realize the impact NJC is having on your life until you leave this place. But I can assure you that the impact is profound, lifelong and lasting,” says Marc. “I first learned about NJC from my parents. They were both educators and knew the incredible history and strong reputation of NJC. For me, NJC stood out because of its international programming and the dynamic experiences offered. When I was looking at where I wanted my academic path to take me, NJC seemed like the perfect opportunity to do something completely different for my last year of high school. I was seeking an opportunity that would challenge me and provide a new perspective. NJC was the perfect combination to supply me with not only academic, but personal growth.”
Marc was not sure what it would be like to live with a French-speaking family in Switzerland, but he soon found himself enjoying the experience. "It was amazing to be immersed fully into the Swiss culture. The ‘pension’ provided a perfect forum for me to practice my French on a regular basis and take part in evening activities with my host family,” he recalls. “My madame was fantastic and warmly welcomed me into her family which made the transition much easier. At first, I was very sheepish and shy, but through family dinners and small excursions together, I was fully embraced which then added a whole new dimension to the experience. My time in Switzerland was incredible and I truly believe that there is no other way to fully immerse yourself in someone else’s culture.”
There were many travel opportunities for the Class of 1995, but for Marc it was the trip to Tunisia that really stood out. “In Tunisia, we got to sleep in the Sahara desert under the stars,” Marc remembers, “and so the trip holds a very special place for me as it was my first journey to Africa. It is a continent I have since fallen in love with, and is now where I spend my summers as part of my work with Free The Children. That NJC trip to Tunisia provided such a wonderful introduction to a remarkable continent with incredible people.”
Looking back, Marc believes that his time at NJC had a major influence on the choices he made with his post secondary education and his career. “Today, my work with Free The Children and WE provides a very dynamic and international work environment. I have the pleasure of frequently travelling around the world and meeting many people from different cultures and countries,” says Marc. “My time with NJC has better prepared me than I could have imagined. The experience helped me to learn how to immerse myself into a new culture and to broaden my perspective. I then went on to study International Relations and to do my post-graduate degree in England. I firmly believe that formative year at NJC opened my eyes to a world I wouldn't have otherwise come to know at such a young age.”