NEWS: Sanders Holds Four Student Town Meetings on Youth Mental Health in Milton, Fairfax, Montpelier, and Barre

BURLINGTON, Vt., April 7 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) spoke with more than 1,150 students on Wednesday and Thursday in Milton, Fairfax, Montpelier, and Barre about the mental health crisis facing young people. At each school, Sanders also held roundtable discussions with teachers, guidance counselors and staff about the state of education in Vermont, challenges the school community has experienced as result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact of social media on student learning and well-being.

Find photos from the visits here.

During the town meetings at Milton High School, Bellows Free Academy Faifax, U-32 Middle & High School, and Spaulding High School, Sanders held question-and-answer sessions to hear directly from the students about the issues they care about and how the federal government can address the needs of young people. Throughout the town meetings, students shared their thoughts on topics ranging from struggles with depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide; concerns about family income and desire to support their parents; the use of e-cigarettes; as well as larger societal issues like the high costs of college and health care. Students also spoke extensively about social media, which they identified as a way to connect with friends but which also can lead to feelings of separation, loneliness, and inferiority.

“There is no question that our young people have dealt with a lot over the last few years, and as a state and country, we have a lot of work to do to help them,” said Sanders. “However, hearing from these Vermont students truly gives me hope. They are engaged. They are making their voices heard. They are fighting for a better future for their generation. Every time I speak with young Vermonters I’m impressed by their insights and ideas about how we move forward. I very much enjoyed the discussions.”

“Our faculty felt heard by Senator Sanders about the challenges our students and families face daily,” said Elizabeth Noonan, Principal at Bellows Free Academy Fairfax. “The mental health crisis facing our students nationwide not only impacts them at this moment in time but will significantly impact the coming generations as they become professionals and start families. We look with hope to Congress to find partnerships and opportunities to meet the needs of our students. Senator Sanders’ engagement with our high schoolers provided a remarkable opportunity for him to hear the challenges they face and identify micro and macro-level issues impacting their mental health.”

“We are so fortunate to live in a state where our U.S. Senator, Bernie Sanders, can get input directly from our students, faculty, and staff about the important issues facing education today,” said Mary Jane Stinson and Anne Blake, Co-Principals at Milton High School.

“It’s not every day that a politician who represents our state comes to our school to hear what students think,” said Yolanda Bansah, a junior at U-32 Middle & High School. “It was nice to know that our opinions are valued. It gave us an insight into what is going on in Congress on our behalf. It was a great experience to be able to speak to our representative and have him hear our voices and respond to our questions.”

“We really appreciated the opportunity for Senator Sanders to hear the student and teacher voices about issues that matter to them,” said Steven Dellinger-Pate, Principal at U-32 Middle & High School. “The senator’s support for mental health services for our students and families can only help us provide a better education for all our students.”

“We are very appreciative that Senator Sanders visited Spaulding High School,” said Luke Aither, Co-Principal at Spaulding High School. “Youth voices deserve to be brought to the national stage and I’m very glad the senator was able to hear so many different perspectives from our students.”

As Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Senator Sanders will bring what he heard from these Vermont students and teachers back to Washington with him as he works to address the many challenges they face.