Vermont students representing the Vermont Youth Lobby and the Vermont Student Anti-Racism Network united on Zoom and declared their priorities for the 2022 legislative session. In this address they looked back to their calls to action for the state seen in the Climate Congress Declaration and the work of the Vermont Student Anti-Racism Network, and they highlighted the actions they have called for that have been left untouched.
“Vermont legislators need to implement the Climate Action Plan, pass the environment justice bill, pass anti-racism standards in education, pass the Bottle Bill and so much more,” said Jenna Hirschman, a student from Essex High School in Chittenden County, representing the Vermont Youth Lobby.
“From the perspective of us young people, there are an array of bills that the legislature could and should pass this session related to anti-racism. These include equity in housing, abolition of slavery, removing armed officers from schools, prohibiting discrimination, and providing reform for the criminal justice system,” said Addie Lentzner, a student from Arlington Memorial High School in Bennington County, representing the Vermont Student Anti-Racism Network.
Students emphasized their frustration with lack of action on climate in the state legislature and demanded better leadership from the legislature on this issue. “Every new year I have high hopes. I have little dreams and prayers that things will go right and that I will see direct and just climate action from legislators and decision makers. That people who are supposed to be dealing with this will start doing their job. I have had high hopes since I was in the third grade and I have seen the momentum build, I have seen the beginning of solutions, but I have seen far from enough to fulfill my hopes. The time has come to pair my hopes with expectations I’ve decided because it is no longer acceptable to me that people are allowed to sit in a position of power and make promises to me that they don’t keep,” said Django Grace, a student at Brattleboro Union High School in Windham County.
“True leadership often requires making tough decisions which can be confrontational. To help stop climate change, some tough decisions are going to have to be made about changing the way Vermonters rely on fossil fuels as part of their everyday lives. Anything short of this will fail to stop the climate catastrophe currently engulfing our planet,” said Willow Sterling-Proulx, a student at Montpelier High School in Washington County.
The press conference ended with a call to action from Pacem School student Miriam Serota-Winston. “So, like so many before us, we are faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem. Where do we start? We start by speaking up for our home, for our rights, and for our future. We start by showing up together for what we believe in: a just, equitable, and safe future for us all. We are here and we have a chance to fix this. The bills that other speakers today have spoken about include concrete action to fix this crisis. If we show up and if we work hard, we can take that rapidly disappearing chance to stop climate change in its tracks. Together we can ensure that not only is there a future for all of us but that that future is just and equitable. We can make it to tomorrow and we can make that tomorrow the best it can be.”
This surely won’t be the last we hear from this courageous group of young leaders. Vermont and the state legislature can expect to see and hear a lot more action from these groups throughout the session – they are not going away.
The Vermont Youth Lobby is launching a Fridays for Future program, where every Friday students from across the state will be doing legislative activism work.
“Youth care about these issues and legislators need to as well. That is why we are launching a Fridays for the Future Youth Lobby program. Every Friday we will have students from Vermont doing legislative activism work. Because we care, we care about these issues, we care enough to be here today, we care enough to be there every Friday, we care about the world we are going to be handed. It’s our future and we want a say.” – Jenna Hirschman Essex High School.