What a fun, moving, and inspiring morning! Youth and adult teams from around Vermont, the country, and the world met virtually on Friday, May 13th to share stories of all that they accomplished as Cultivating Pathways to Sustainability (CPS) teams this year. Participating schools included Crossett Brook Middle School, Georgia Elementary and Middle School, Harwood Union Middle School, Kopila Valley School in Nepal, and Piney Woods School in Mississippi. 

Each team delivered a presentation sharing photos and videos of their youth-adult teams in action, as well as snapshots of the data they collected to inform their work. Projects included campus and community beautification days, a food and toiletries drive for a local pantry, advocating for students’ pronouns to be included on attendance lists for substitute teachers, and a campaign to stock school bathrooms with free period products.

The event included youth-facilitated break-out rooms, so that teams could share their experiences with each other in small groups. During these conversations, youth spoke about what taking part in the CPS program has meant to them. One student from Harwood Middle School commented that her team had formed a tight bond this year, and that “it feels like a second family.” Keith, a student from Piney Woods School, stated that “CPS made me a better person in general,” and that he had grown as a leader, able to share his opinions and feeling like he could make a difference. Isis, another student from Piney Woods, commented that she felt the program had made her more “empathetic and kind,” and other youth described feeling like they learned how to be flexible and adapt to changing situations and needs. 

Students spoke of how being on the team impacted them in positive ways, with one Harwood student remarking that she has made new friends across the two grade levels, 7th and 8th, and that being on the team helped her “block out the negative aspects” of her experience at school. Many students spoke of the power of youth-adult partnership, as it “allows for more possibilities, with the students bringing the fresh ideas and outlook, while the adults bring resources, such as food and cars, and the opportunities for the youth to put their ideas into action.” 

All of the projects are ongoing, and we hope to continue working with these amazing youth-adult teams again next year.