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MONTPELIER — Students from Windham County and all over Vermont traveled to the State House recently to meet with various state leaders and talk about important issues of the day.

The July 30 gathering was coordinated by the Governor’s Institutes of Vermont (GIV), with funding from a Summer Matters for All grant. It allowed 18 young Vermonters to meet in person with Gov. Phil Scott, Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, and a host of legislators for a day of exchanging ideas and creating real change.

“Students loved connecting with legislators and with both our Governor and Lieutenant Governor at the State House,” said state Rep. Michelle Bos-Lun, D-Windham 4. “They valued getting to talk with and be listened to by elected officials from around our state. I expect we may have some future legislators emerging out of this year’s student group!”

But they did more than just bend the ears of their legislators; these young Vermonters also took the floor in the House Chamber for a legislative simulation, proposing and debating bills they developed over the course of GIV’s virtual 2021 Global Issues & Youth Action program. They voted on and passed their bills addressing anti-racist education, compostable silverware, and mental health services for incarcerated individuals.

“We need you. We really need you. We need the next generation at the table,” Gray told the students, who piled into her office to discuss the climate and housing crises currently facing Vermont. Scott added that “Regardless of our differences, we’re all team Vermont. And our young people — all of you — are incredibly important members of that team.”

Organizers said students finished the day with indelible smiles on their faces, and a palpable excitement for the future lining every “see you soon.”

“I attended the Governor’s Institute on Current Issues and Youth Activism in 2005 as a Vermont high school student. It was the first chance I had to study current affairs and politics in that way,” said community organizer and GIV staffer Aaron Bos-Lun. “I do work now that started to become real to me at GIV, and hope as many young people as possible can get the same opportunity at a time when we need new voices in politics more than ever.”

GIV’s one-day programs funded by the Summer Matters grant will continue through August. Applications for GIV’s in-person summer 2022 programs open in December. For more information, visit www.giv.org, or email info@giv.org with any questions.