As part of “Vermont Day,” a biannual educational trip organized by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for Vermont students, 90 high schoolers from Oxbow High School and Spaulding High School traveled to the nonpartisan Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston on Wednesday to learn firsthand about democracy and the Senate legislative process.
“I am so pleased to see that ‘Vermont Day’ is taking place once again,” said Sanders, who serves on the Senate education committee. “It is a wonderful opportunity for you, as young people, to learn how our government works and how you can be involved in developing solutions to the problems we face. So the question you have to ask yourself is: how does real change come about? Real change never takes place starting at the White House or in Congress. It starts at the grassroots level where people like you stand up and demand change. I hope that is one of the major lessons you take away from today.”
Each year, participating students become “Senators-for-a-Day” at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, an immersive educational opportunity to learn about the legislative process, including researching, introducing, and debating legislation in a full-scale replica of the U.S. Senate chamber. Each trip, students debate a major issue facing the country. Today’s Vermont Day focused on voting rights, while prior trips covered topics ranging from climate change to prescription drug price reform.
Since starting the program in 2017, more than 600 Vermont students have participated in the Kennedy Institute’s innovative programming on democracy, civics, and the legislative process. After a hiatus during the height of the pandemic, Sanders’ office has returned to organizing these trips twice a year for Vermont students in 2022.
“Vermont Day at the Kennedy Institute is a real highlight for our civic education team, and one we look forward to each year,” said Sarah Yezzi, Institute Director of Education, Family & Youth Programming. “We’re delighted to welcome Vermont students to our replica of the Senate chamber to discuss voting rights legislation as Senators for a day. We greatly value this partnership with Senator Sanders and his wonderful staff that makes it possible for us to work with Vermont students and teachers to strengthen our democracy through civic education.”
Adam Hinds, CEO of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate, said, “The Kennedy Institute has long committed itself to civic education and instilling the importance of participatory democracy to the next generation of American citizens and voters. In recent years, our mission has taken on a larger meaning of inspiring future leaders to engage in the civic life of their communities and understand the role that civil discourse plays in the fabric of democracy – all goals that align with the essence of celebrating Vermont Day. We are proud to participate in initiatives like Vermont Day and thankful to have Senator Sanders contribute to our dynamic civic education programming offered at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute.”
Andrew Chobanian, a teacher at Oxbow High School said, “It is such a privilege and honor to have our federal government value the education of our brand new and soon-to-be voters – Oxbow High School’s senior and junior class. Through Senator Sander’s office organizing the event, a federal grant paying for all the admission fees, and the staff willing to give us the best, most engaging experience possible. It is through this recognition of the value of our youth’s future involvement that we will change America for the better. We are proud to be Vermonters today.”
Katie Saint Raymond, a teacher at Spaulding High School said, “Vermont Day at the Senate Institute in Boston is one of my favorite days as an educator. Thanks to Senator Sander’s office, 40 Spaulding students were able to spend a day at the Senate and become immersed in the world of Congress. In that time, they learned the process of bill making, the legacy of the 1965 Civil Rights Voting Act, the impact of gerrymandering on elections, and how to compromise when passing policy. Students were very engaged in the committee sessions and engaged in debate about complex topics on the Senate floor. It is certainly an experience the students will not forget.”