Youth from Colchester High School met on November 28th at Champlain College for an all-day action planning retreat! Four student groups—the Social Justice Alliance, We Matter (Mental Health Awareness), Student Government, and the Gender/Sexuality Alliance—met to build community, have concentrated work time, as well as meet with administrators to offer their input on equity initiatives at the school. In the morning, The youth took part in a community building  activity, Human Bingo, then identified core values that can help them form working norms and agreements for their respective groups. They devoted time to action planning, with each group focusing on designing events or programming to increase equity at their school. Some of the youth also took part in a facilitation role-playing game, in which they practiced strategies for when participants are not engaging or are causing distractions in circle discussions. 

After lunch, Colchester Schools Superintendent, Amy Minor, met with some of the youth to share a draft of the district’s new equity policy. The students named strengths that they see, as well as places where the policy can be improved, or where its language is vague or confusing. Another group met with Principal, Andrew Conforti, to discuss the policy around flying the Black Lives Matter flag at the high school. Both conversations were vibrant and full of great ideas, and the administrators commented on how proud and excited they were to hear the students’ valuable perspectives. The group closed the day by sharing how they felt coming into the retreat, and how they felt as they were leaving, with many students and staff stating that they had felt “nervous” or “uncertain” coming in, and how they were leaving feeling “inspired” and “motivated.” Youth groups from Colchester Middle School will take part in a similar retreat in a few weeks, and two youth from Colchester High School will be co-facilitating. Thank you for a fun and productive day, CHS! 

 By Christie Howell