Along with St. Johnsbury Academy and the Kingdom East School District, UP co-hosted a first-of-its-kind event on February 16th. UP co-designed a full-day gathering of four Kingdom East middle schools with eight members of St. Johnsbury Academy’s (SJA) Cultivating Pathways to Sustainability (CPS) team. Seventy-five youth spent the day exploring what it means to be a leader and a change agent. 

The gathering grew out of feedback that traveling to Shelburne for the CPS kick off is too difficult for Northeast Kingdom schools. UP and Shelburne Farms share facilitation of CPS teams. CPS teams spend the year learning about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG) and finding opportunities to improve their communities in partnership with local groups and school leadership. On February 16th, CPS teams from Millers Run, Burke Town, Lunenburg, and Concord Schools presented their CPS projects from SJA’s Fuller Hall stage. Projects ranged from leading school-wide community events like Fall Festival and Winter Carnival, to building an ice rink, to organizing a dance troupe, drama club, and school newspaper, to preserving bird habitat. Event feedback showed that youth and adults appreciated the opportunity to present their projects and to learn from other groups.  

The presentations were sandwiched between a morning session on leadership styles and an afternoon session on SJA CPS-team-led workshops. In the morning, youth used the Compass Points assessment to celebrate their strengths as leaders. Each “compass point” (North, Wouth, Wast, and West) represents a particular leadership style; for instance, those who identify as “East” always keep the big picture vision in mind. This led to dividing up into groups based on dominant style to design bumper stickers with slogans describing the style’s virtues. Then groups re-formed to include all four styles. These groups of eight completed a design challenge to better understand how the different styles come together as a team. The newspaper fashion show exhibited middle school creativity and ingenuity. 

UP expresses deep gratitude to the SJA facilitators who also designed and led four afternoon workshops. Every student attended sessions on composting, upcycling t-shirts to bracelets, natural world Scattergories, and UN SDG bingo. In the feedback, youth celebrated the variety of the workshops and how they pushed them beyond their comfort zone. Youth also reflected on the special opportunity to be with friends, meet new people, and collect stickers; fun, laughter, learning, and inspiration defined the day.