Secretary of State co-hosts Youth Civic Health Summit with youth advocacy group

Vermont Business Magazine Youth from around the state gathered at the Vermont State House last Wednesday, June 5th to help develop Vermont’s first-ever Civic Health Index, at an event co-hosted by the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office and UP for Learning, a youth advocacy organization.  

This year, Vermont joins the ranks of over 35 states that have already-completed a state Civic Health Index – a report on indicators related to voting habits, civic participation, and engagement with government. The final report will identify strengths and priorities for improvement in Vermont’s civic health. The Secretary of State’s Office will use it as a roadmap for increasing civic education and engagement across Vermont.

Civic health, as the National Conference on Citizenship explains, is about “the way that communities are organized to define and address public problems. Communities with strong indicators of civic health have higher employment rates, stronger schools, better physical health, and more responsive governments.”  

“This project is one of my top priorities as Secretary of State, and I’m thrilled that Vermont is leading the way in prioritizing youth voices, not only with the survey itself but also by inviting youth to take an active role in the process to help us understand the results,” said Vermont Secretary of State Sarah Copeland Hanzas. “Many partners are working together to develop the Civic Health Index, and it made sense to us that young Vermonters deserve a seat at the head of the table to analyze and report on their data.”    

Earlier this year, over 2,500 students from across Vermont took a “Youth Civic Health Survey” developed by the YMCA of the USA and Knight Impact. Vermont is the first state to utilize this survey statewide and incorporate the findings in its Civic Health Index. While Vermont’s Civic Health Index will consider a range of data, the focus of Wednesday’s Youth Civic Health Summit was on the results of the youth survey. Students from Milton High School, Mount Mansfield Union HS, BFA Fairfax, BFA St. Albans, Missisquoi Valley Union, and Twinfield Union gathered to analyze and contribute insight to the survey findings. They discussed key takeaways, recommendations for ways to strengthen civic life, and ideas for sharing the report with other Vermont youth.  

“I owe a huge thank-you to UP for Learning for co-hosting this event, the Center for Rural Studies at UVM for partnering with us on this important work, to SerVermont and Vermont Humanities for their sponsorship support, and to the YMCA for allowing us to utilize their survey,” said Copeland Hanzas. “My ongoing appreciation as well to Robyn Palmer, our Director of Civics and Voter Engagement, who has been spearheading this work. And perhaps most of all, I’m so proud of and grateful for the youth who came out today to make sure their crucial perspective informs the future of Vermont’s civic health. It was an inspiring day!”

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