More than 130 Vermont high school students traveled on Tuesday to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston. This was the second trip organized by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to the bipartisan Kennedy Institute to help Vermont students learn about democracy, civic discourse and the legislative process.
Students from North Country Union High School, Oxbow High School, Peoples Academy and Castleton University’s Upward Bound program participated. The students took on the role of a senator-for-a-day in a full-scale replica of the U.S. Senate chamber. The immersive experience includes researching public policy, introducing and debating legislation and working together to reach consensus.
“Tenth grade students at North Country Union High School have been learning about the inner workings of the U.S. government all year in their government and economics course. It is very exciting to bring them out of their rural classroom and into a replica Senate chamber to debate an issue with other students from around Vermont,” said Aimee Alexander, who teaches at North Country Union High School in Newport. “This opportunity to immerse students in the legislative process is like nothing I could replicate in the classroom.”
Sanders addressed Vermont’s students in livestreamed remarks from his Burlington office. “To the students, I would simply say that what you are learning today is extremely important because democracy, unlike a basketball game or a football game, is not a spectator sport. It is not something where you watch somebody else do it. Democracy means that you do it,” Sanders told the students. “Your job is to determine what you think are the important issues and how you bring about positive change in this country.”
Sanders, who serves on the Senate education committee, said he is “very impressed with the hands-on civics taught to visiting students” at the Kennedy Institute. Sanders organized the first “Vermont Day” trip to the Institute last November.
“The Institute’s interactive educational programs invite students to step into the roles of legislators, giving them the opportunity to have thoughtful and productive conversations around critical issues facing our country,” said Mary K. Grant, president of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. “The future leaders who come through our doors inspire us every day, and we are grateful for the work Senator Sanders is doing to enable students from Vermont to come to our Senate Chamber and make their voices heard.”
“At a time when many people feel alienated from the political process, and when voter participation is dangerously low, it is vitally important that we engage our students to prepare them to be critical thinkers and future leaders,” Sanders said. “This trip is a small, but important step for Vermont students to do just that.”
Schools and students that are interested in participating in a future “Vermont Day” at the Kennedy Institute can contact Katarina Lisaius at Sanders’ Burlington office at 1-800-339-9834.