Release: Vermont Students on the State of the Union

Sanders Announces Essay Winners    
BURLINGTON, Vt., Jan. 24 – More than 225 Vermont students wrote about the declining middle class, climate change and health care reform in a State of the Union essay contest sponsored by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

The winner, selected by a panel of Vermont teachers, was Keenan Villani-Holland of Richmond. He is a senior at Vermont Commons School in South Burlington.

Sanders announced the selection and congratulated the dozen finalists one day before President Barack Obama is to present his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.

“What happens in Washington impacts every American and all of us, including young people, should be thinking about these issues. That’s what democracy is all about,” Sanders said. “I'm very pleased that 225 students, from 20 different schools throughout the state, submitted their own ‘State of the Union’ essays for this contest, and I want to thank the teachers who acted as judges.” 

“The top dozen essays will be placed in the Congressional Record so that the entire country can see the excellent work that Vermont students are doing,” the senator added.

The essays were submitted by high school students from throughout Vermont. The contest was judged by four Vermont social studies teachers: Jennie Gartner from Rutland High School; Elizabeth Lebrun, of Poultney High School; Joe Maley of South Burlington High School; and Terri Vest or Twinfield Union High School in Plainfield. The panel of teachers scored the submissions and narrowed the entries to 12 finalists. In addition Villani-Holland, the others, in alphabetical order are:

•    Iain Axworthy, Essex High School
•    Emily Berk, South Royalton School
•    Molly Burke, Champlain Valley Union High School
•    Jonah Cantor, Champlain Valley Union High School
•    Molly Cantore, St. Johnsbury Academy
•    Kristen Donaldson, Champlain Valley Union High School
•    Susannah Johnson, Vermont Commons School
•    Ingrid Klinkenberg, Edmunds Middle School
•    Ezra Mount-Finette, Champlain Valley Union High School
•    Lisa Ogorzalek of Rutland High School
•    Bryn Philibert, Champlain Valley Union High School

"This was a great way to get kids to think outside of their ‘teenage bubbles’ as I call them – to look at their families, their communities and beyond and really think about the problems facing our country," said Gartner, a social studies teacher at Rutland High School who was one of the four judges.

"We cannot expect our young people to come up with solutions to the problems facing our country and even our world if they are not given the opportunity to confront them from an intellectual standpoint,” she said. “I am so happy that Vermont students were able to pose their ideas to someone like Senator Sanders, who will take their ideas into consideration."

To read the essays from the 12 finalists, click here.