“The pandemic has taken a significant toll on the mental health of Vermont’s youth and families, and the educators and staff tasked with caring for them,” said Vermont Afterschool Interim Director Nicole Miller. “We’re thankful Governor Scott, Senator Ginny Lyons, and the Vermont Legislature recognize the critical role afterschool, summer, and out-of-school programs will play in ensuring our youth are supported during these troubling times.”
“Our kids need opportunities for recovery from the stress and isolation caused by the pandemic,” said Vermont State Senator Ginny Lyons. “S.197 provides a broad range of grants to ensure social, emotional, and mental health support within communities and schools. Kids with lower level needs and kids requiring more in-depth counseling will benefit from in school and after-school activities, and teachers who have been challenged by these difficult times will be supported.”
“Our school staffs and our kids need resources and supports to address learning deficits and mental health needs which only became worse during COVID, particularly among Vermont’s most vulnerable kids,” said Governor Phil Scott. “I thank the Legislature for appropriating $3 million in federal funds for this purpose.”
“We know from our work in afterschool, summer, and third-space programs that young people enrich our communities when their voices are heard and their passion for the future is felt,” said Miller. “The State Youth Council recognizes the importance of young Vermonters and ensures they have a say in what that future looks like.”
The writing of H.293 was informed by the work of Vermont Afterschool’s 2020 State Youth Advisory Group, a group of 50 young people who met regularly throughout the pandemic to develop recommendations for the State Youth Council. SYAG member Una Fonte helped draft the recommendations and testified in support of it before the Vermont House and Senate Committees on Government Operations.
Democracy is as strong as the diversity of people it empowers, and the Youth Council strengthens Vermont’s democracy by expanding the experiences present in the political process. Climate change and the school system affect everyone, but for youth are often more urgent and direct, and a Youth Council will bring this urgency to Montpelier.—Una Fonte, State Youth Advisory Group member
“Rarely does a legislator have an opportunity to lift the voices of so many,” said Rep. Diane Lanpher (Addison-3). “Our Vermont youth are eager and willing to bring their voices to democracy. I am honored to have helped to establish the Youth Council, which will have influence for decades to come.
“As one of Vermont’s Champions of “Youth Voice” this is a very proud moment, for all Vermonters young and old,” said Rep. Kevin “Coach” Christie (Windsor 4-2). “I am just honored to be part of the team that was able to accomplish the goal of getting the Vermont Youth Council across the finish line.”