We believe young people make a better Vermont. They enrich our communities, they are eager to be engaged, and they have a right to be heard and respected.
Since 2017, we have led statewide discussions on the importance of youth voice, advocating for youth to be included in policy discussions, helping local communities and organizations to establish their own local youth councils and convening State Youth Advisory Groups to work on issues such as Youth Rights and Health Equity.
It was the work of the 2020 State Youth Advisory Group that informed the writing of H.293, a Vermont State Legislature bill signed into law by Governor Scott, which established the State Youth Council—a diverse group of 28 Vermont youth from each county responsible for advising the Governor and General Assembly on the policies that impact young persons today.
The State Youth Council guarantees that this oft-disenfranchised population of dynamic and innovative individuals will have the opportunity to directly participate in Vermont’s democracy, effect the change they wish to see, and be empowered to guide the state’s future.
Vermont’s Youth Services Advisory Council selected members of the first State Youth Council in the fall of 2022 from a pool of 200 applicants. The State Youth Council held its inaugural meeting December 13, 2022 in Montpelier.
We look forward to seeing the positive impact Vermont’s State Youth Council will have on generations of Vermonters to come!
State Youth Advisory Groups
Since 2020, Vermont Afterschool has been convening State Youth Advisory Groups to provide input on important policy matters concerning Vermont’s young people. In 2020, close to 50 young people came together via the internet to work throughout the summer and, despite the pandemic, develop recommendations for the State Youth Council. SYAG members helped draft the recommendations, testified in support of it before the Vermont House and Senate Committees on Government Operations, and celebrated when Governor Scott signed the legislation into law.
In 2021, a second State Youth Advisory Group was formed to grapple with issues of health equity. In partnership with VT Rays and VCHIP, the group looked at the intersectionality of access to afterschool programs, access to primary health care, and access to mental health supports. Their findings and recommendations are being shared with decision-makers and health practitioners through avenues such as Grand Rounds at the UVM Medical Center.
Now, in 2022, a third round of young people have come together as a State Youth Advisory Group to work in partnership with the governor’s office and the Interagency Afterschool Youth Task Force on the creation of universal afterschool and summer in Vermont. In May 2022, the SYAG released the 2022 Universal Afterschool and Summer Report, which contained youth recommendations for the future of afterschool in Vermont.
The 2022 group feels strongly about seeing youth voice and leadership at every level and have kicked off a Youth Stories Initiative to collect input and ideas from young people across the state. Stay tuned for more stories and recommendations to come from this group!
Local Youth Councils
In addition to its statewide work, Vermont Afterschool is committed to supporting local youth councils across the state.
Our approach to youth councils is not about creating an elite group of youth who are charged with making all the decisions. Nor do we expect any discrete group of youth to be able to represent the viewpoints of all the youth in their community. Instead, we work with communities and local organizations to build youth councils with a central focus on elevating the voices of as many youth as possible at every stage of the process. Our youth council members are amplifiers of youth voice; not token or elite youth who try to speak on behalf of all other youth.
Currently, Vermont Afterschool is supporting local youth councils in 8-10 communities across the state. With support from the Northfield Savings Bank Foundation and the Vermont Department of Health, we provide grant funding that allows for stipends for participating youth and funds to support youth-driven projects. Vermont Afterschool guides the local youth councils through a participatory budgeting process that gives youth the opportunity to submit project proposals that address community needs and allows local youth to vote on the projects they want to see implemented. The winning projects will be funded from youth to youth!
To learn more about how we use participatory budgeting process with the youth councils, watch the video below.
Interested in help with starting your own youth council? Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope to hear from you and the young people in your program or community soon!