The Future of Vermont Action Team is launching a statewide Youth Opportunity Initiative, facilitated by the Vermont Council on Rural Development, to embark on a deep engagement process to draw input from youth, community members, parents, advocates, municipal leaders, educators, school administrators, business owners, policy experts, and more to identify strategies and action to advance youth opportunity, aspiration, and community connection.
In 2021, the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) built The Vermont Proposition which outlines a bold proposal to set our state on a trajectory toward success, vitality, and prosperity for the next 30 years based on input from thousands of Vermonters. A diverse group of 20 leaders convened and facilitated by VCRD, known as the Future of Vermont Action Team, have been further defining and implementing the ten elements of the Vermont Proposition.
The “Vermont Youth Opportunity Initiative” emerged through the Vermont Proposition effort and was identified by the Action Team as a transformational opportunity that will make an impact and lay a strong foundation for the implementation work of other Proposition areas ahead. A Youth Opportunity Advisory Group of statewide leaders and youth members has developed a statewide engagement process and will review findings and make action recommendations following feedback.
Starting April 20 in the Upper Valley region, then May 23rd in the Northwest Region, and continuing in different regions across the state – with support and guidance from the Advisory Group – the Vermont Council on Rural Development will convene, manage, staff, and facilitate a series of community forums, youth forums, and stakeholder interviews to understand the current landscape of policy and program initiatives and to gather input and ideas to strengthen, support, and advance opportunities for Vermont youth.
“We need all Vermonters operating to their full potential. This begins by helping Vermont youth know, explore, and imagine what is possible. We all play a role in helping youth around us – friends, students, coworkers, family, and community members – thrive and succeed,” says Community College of Vermont President and member of both the Future of Vermont Action Team and Youth Opportunity Advisory Group member, Joyce Judy. “Please join a forum in your region to share your ideas for how we can best create opportunities for youth to have hope and aspiration for the future!”
Forums will be taking place in regions throughout the state to bring together community members, youth, municipal leaders, parents, educators, business representatives, career development experts, and higher education leaders to discuss success stories, challenges, and ideas for the future. Each region will also include a separate additional youth forum to hear directly from young people in the region. Youth forums will be co-facilitated by youth members of the Advisory Group.
“The Youth Opportunity Initiative seeks to build a future with stronger connections between youth and community, bringing new voices and ideas from across the state together to identify what is working well, where there are challenges, and where there is the potential for new actions or partnerships to boost opportunities in workforce development, career pathways, and higher education,” said VCRD Executive Director, Brian Lowe.
The first public forum will take place on Thursday, April 20 at Oxbow High School in Bradford, VT from 6:00-7:30pm and will invite all community members of the Upper Valley to join the conversation. The second forum will take place in St Albans and cover the Northwest Region of the state on May 23rd. Dates for additional forums throughout the state will be released in the coming weeks with extensive outreach efforts in each region and will also be available at https://www.futureofvermont.org/youth-opportunity-initiative. Online surveys will be made available to gather additional statewide input from education experts, business leaders, youth, parents, and community leaders over the period in which convenings are ongoing.
Following the gathering of extensive input from thousands of Vermonters, a summary report will be shared with the Youth Opportunity Advisory Group who will review findings and develop a set of concrete policy or program recommendations to deliver back to the Future of Vermont Action Team by December 2023 for next steps and implementation.
VCRD Community Engagement and Policy Director and Initiative Lead Jenna Koloski says, “We have the opportunity in Vermont to craft a narrative of hope, aspiration, equity, and potential for all youth around the state. This initiative will seek input from Vermonters of all walks of life to identify concrete action that we can take today to help all youth realize their vision for the future – we are excited to see the bold, actionable, and practical ideas that emerge through this work.”
To learn more and stay up to date on progress of the Youth Opportunity Initiative and the Vermont Proposition, join the VCRD Partnership for the Future of Vermont mailing list and/or visit https://www.futureofvermont.org/youth-opportunity-initiative.