Montpelier, Vt. – In an effort to provide an outlet for Vermont youth to share their pandemic experiences, Governor Phil Scott, the Vermont Department of Mental Health and Vermont Afterschool today held a virtual youth summit.
The event asked students from across the state to share their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, giving the Governor and his team the opportunity to learn more about their needs and concerns as the state moves forward on student recovery efforts.
“As I’ve said, I have a lot of concern for our kids and their wellbeing as we are now more than a year into this pandemic,” said Governor Scott. “I know parents, teachers, principals and many others have been working hard to help give kids the best education possible during this once-in-a-century crisis. But I think most of us would agree, even the very best remote learning, it is still not as good as being in person.”
Governor Scott heard from 23 students, age 12-17, from 10 counties across the state. He and the students were joined by Education Secretary Dan French, Human Services Secretary Mike Smith, Chief Prevention Officer Monica Hutt, Mental Health Commissioner Sarah Squirrell and Holly Morehouse, executive director of Vermont Afterschool.
“We are so fortunate to have these diverse individuals and unique voices come together to make a collective statement,” stated Vermont Afterschool’s Executive Director Holly Morehouse. “Not only are these young people giving us the gift of their personal stories and perspectives, they are also providing important information that can help inform Vermont’s response and recovery efforts now and as we move forward.”
Student speakers offered a range of feedback, largely reflecting on the challenges of the pandemic and time away from friends. Several students pointed to the importance of talking with kids about the impact of the pandemic on their mental health.
“Our Vermont youth spoke out and it is imperative that we listen, we need to focus the conversation on the mental health needs of our youngest Vermonters,” said Commissioner Squirrell. “It is clear that many of our youth are lacking the benefits of access to school - the social interaction, personal connection, structure and sense of safety that they need to thrive.”
Governor Scott concluded the event by thanking the students for their participation and input, noting “I talk a lot about character, integrity, civility and respect, and the common theme I heard today - regardless of different points of view - was just the empathy, the compassion you have. The words you use are inspiring to me and give me great hope for the future. So, thank you all for taking this time, you did a wonderful job and I hope you continue to speak to others as well, because your stories are important.”
To view the virtual summit, go to http://bit.ly/virtualyouthsummit2021