Ms. Alyssa Gorton
In today’s political climate, it can be difficult choosing who and what to believe. Even more difficult is standing up for your own personal convictions in a way that is peaceful, respectful, and powerful. As a 14-17 year old in Vermont, it may seem like there is little to do or to be done due to the voting age. With passion, however, there is always work to be done, especially if you have an affinity for a governmental profession. CVU’s Engage Day is an amazing opportunity to let students get involved in what they’re spirited about, and make connections within the community.
For many students, including myself, social activism is important, seeing as the environment we’ve been forced into is one of ceaseless media coverage, dividing politicians, and up until recently, the silencing of the youth. One of CVU’s workshops titled Social Activism, sparked the interest of both me and many of my friends. No matter what political party you identify with (if any), it’s easy to see that we’re in a time of division and strong opinions, but knowing how you can make a difference in your community is without a doubt empowering to you and those around you.
The workshop was, without a doubt, run extremely well. That was mostly due to the charisma and kind nature of the selectboard candidate Rebecca (Becca) White, who composed the workshop and interacted with those in the group in a way that was genuine and educational. One of the first things we did as a group was discuss issues that were important to us and put them up on the whiteboard to get a general feel of the room.
Most people in this room came prepared with a variety of questions to ask about how to get involved in their community. While there are already many ways to get involved at CVU through school clubs and opportunities, some students would either like to seek a more individual approach to activism, or just go above and beyond with their community involvement.
A club new to the CVU scene, Student Justice Committee (SJC), was made with the intention to allow and commit students to seek out and change that which they deem unjust, unfair, or inane. The founders, Sydney Hicks and Asha Hickok, who also helped organize our walkout, stated that their intentions lie within “further pursuing actions based around activism, and inviting students to discuss politics in an open and safe environment,” which is a prime example of the student leadership culture founded within the walls of CVU.
The club meets every Monday morning at 7:30 in Room 107 and all are welcome. Both of these students were involved in this workshop, among others with aligning interests. Ms. White spoke of her experiences as one of the only female select board members, detailing that double standards still lie within our local government no matter how our state may swing politically. “My experience being a woman on a select board (just became one of two!) is different than the experiences of the men on the board. The biggest experience difference is in the perception of my actions compared to male colleagues- if I speak passionately it is typically taken as “over board” or “hysterical” rather than a similarly passionate statement often viewed as “strong” or “powerfully put.” It is tough being the lone woman or lone young person, just like being any minority can be difficult when you are stereotyped and not taken seriously based on stereotypes. However, it is empowering to be able to make changes and see progress for often disenfranchised groups.”
The general consensus among the students whom participated was that the seminar style that the workshop was completed in allowed for educational and thought provoking discussion about the concerns we held as young adults in our country, state, and community. After leaving, I spoke with my friends and many felt empowered and proactive, thinking of the many opportunities ahead of them.
After reaching out to Becca after our meeting, I found it was equally gratifying for her, as an adult in our local government. When asked about her overall experience at CVU, she said this: “It was a great experience to speak with the students at CVU. I was impressed with the engagement and the interest in politics and government that each student had. I appreciated hearing from the students and learning what you are concerned about.” Furthermore, I inquired what Becca would recommend as a first step to getting involved in your political community, whether it be local, statewide, regional, or national. “The first step is understanding that you not only should be involved politically at a local level but that you are NEEDED. It is critical for democracy for everyone to be an active participant. One of my favorite quotes is that “Democracy dies in the dark.” Practically, though, the best first step is reaching out to folks you know in town who are politically involved or serve on boards and asking them about their work.”
Even if you believe that you are too small and unimportant to make a difference in your community, you can do good. Acts of political passion start with one person and spread like wildfire. If you don’t feel as though you can reach out individually, gather a group of likeminded and equally passionate people and see what you can do in your community to make even the smallest of changes.